years ago this April, Jill Robinson first walked onto a bear bile farm. On that day in April 1993, Jill could have walked away, but she chose to act and do what she could. Today, you also have a choice. If everyone reading this donated just US$20, it would pay for the care of over 150 bears at our China sanctuary for a full year. Please help us celebrate 20 years of progress. Donate US$20 today (or whatever you can afford).
End the use of bear skin pelts in the British Army
2 August 2010
Animals Asia joins international calls for the British government to end the use of bear skin pelts for the production of military hats worn by The Queens Guard. The hats are currently made from the fur of bears killed in legal black bear hunts in North America, and serve no military or practical function. They are purely ornamental and could easily be made from a synthetic, humane fabric.
According to the UK's Independent newspaper, "The Queen's five regiments of foot guards need between 50 and 100 new caps every year – each of which is 18ins tall and takes the entire skin of a black bear to make. In March 2009, it was revealed that the Ministry of Defence has spent more than £321,000 on bearskins in the past five years. The hats were first worn by British soldiers in 1815, following the defeat of Napoleon's French Imperial Guards at the battle of Waterloo. The French grenadiers wore bearskins to appear taller and more intimidating, and Britain adopted the towering hats for soldiers in ceremonial duties and guarding royal residencies as a symbol of their victory.
Previous attempts to replace the ceremonial hats with a synthetic fabric have failed. Officers claimed that they were not as durable as the traditional bearskin and that they do not look the same as the originals, which are famous around the world.
"The armed services are probably going through a pretty challenging time – it is the beginning of the 21st century, and the way the Army works is changing. In these circumstances, there is a lot to be said for the importance of tradition, of ceremony, of wearing the same hat that your grandfather wore," said Professor Paul Kennedy, historian at the London School of Economics.
The People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals (PETA) website explain:
Despite a public outcry, bears are still slaughtered in order to make the queen's guards' caps. It takes as much as the entire hide of one bear to make just one guard's headpiece. The black bears are hunted in Canada, and their skins are shipped to the UK. Many of the bears are shot several times before they die, and some escape the hunters and bleed to death. When mother bears are killed, orphaned cubs are left behind to starve.
The MoD has told PETA that "considerable efforts have been made" in the past to explore alternative sources of material, but that none was found to be "suitable". Yet when it was presented with high-tech synthetic materials by PETA - sourced from leading faux-fur manufacturers around the world and made to the MoD's own specifications - the MoD was quick to make negative comments about the faux fur, saying that it "lacks life" and "doesn't bounce back".
Questions tabled recently in the House of Commons by Mike Hancock, MP for Portsmouth South, have revealed the MoD's shocking lack of initiative in moving towards finding a replacement for the bearskin caps which are worn by the Queen's five guard’s regiments. When asked if he would make it a policy to use synthetic materials instead of animal fur, Secretary of State for Defence Adam Ingram stated, "If an alternative is sourced and found to be fit for purpose, replacement of bearskins will be considered". What Ingram failed to point out is that the MoD has used this line for two decades, yet in the past five years alone, it has contributed more than £321,000 to the slaughter of black bears for ceremonial caps and continues to move extremely slowly in looking for a replacement.
More than 200 British Members of Parliament signed on to Early Day Motion (EDM) 1756 in a recent parliamentary session in the House of Commons. This progressive motion pointed out that the ornamental caps serve no military purpose whatsoever – as one of the MPs who support EDM 1756 pointed out, they are not even bullet-proof – and called on the government to support a change to a modern and humane synthetic fabric.
With the resources, science and technology which are at the MoD's disposal, it is inexcusable that the same army which is capable of building some of the most sophisticated equipment and machinery in the world claims it is unable to find a synthetic replacement for bearskins after two decades of "searching" and despite the wide availability of luxurious synthetic materials.
Animals Asia and our UK support group network have written to Her Majesty the Queen and the Ministry of Defence respectfully calling for an end to the use of such bear fur pelts. Please join us by writing to the UK government at the following address: MOD Ministerial Correspondence Unit, 5th Floor, Zone A, Main Building
Whitehall, London, SW1A 2HB OR if you are outside of the UK please write to the British embassy in your country: http://www.embassiesabroad.com/embassies-of/UnitedKingdom
Her Majesty the Queen
We, the undersigned animal welfare experts and concerned citizens are writing to raise our deepest concerns regarding the continued use of bear skin pelts for military hats for the Queens Guards.
A wide range of suitable alternative materials are now available for the production of such hats, yet Your Majesty and the Ministry of Defence continue to support the Canadian bear hunt and the brutal and needless slaughter of innocent wild animals.
Each year, as many as 50,000 black bears in North America are caught in steel traps or shot. Estimates suggest one in seven bears is not killed outright but crawls away to die of disease, hunger or dehydration. Many bears are left for days to suffer in bear traps until a hunter returns to put these poor bears out of their misery.
Animals Asia finds this needless slaughter of bears abhorrent and our supporters are ashamed of the support the British monarchy and the British government provide for this slaughter.
Since 1995, Animals Asia has been rescuing and caring for bears confiscated from the horrors of the bear farming industry at our sanctuaries in China and Vietnam. We are working in partnership with the Sichuan Forestry Administration and the China Wildlife Conservation Association in Beijing towards closing bear farms, and we have so far rescued 276 bears and brought them to our sanctuary in Chengdu. Our Animals Asia team in China works extensively with both central and provincial government representatives and the citizens of China to improve the welfare of animals across the country.
During a recent trip to the UK, Chinese government officials have commented on the continued use of bear skins by the British army in direct response to our appeals for the Chinese government to end the suffering of bears in China.
We respectfully urge you end the use of bear skin pelts for military hats and switch to the available alternatives as soon as possible. In doing so, you will be showing your respect for bears internationally and sending a message to governments across the world that the British government will not be complicit with such animal suffering.
Animal Welfare Director
Animals Asia Foundation
On Behalf of:
Babs & Tony Hubbold
Bedfordshire Animals Asia Support Group
Brighton Animals Asia Support Group
Bolton Moon Bear Rescue Support Group
Buckingham Moon Bear Rescue Support Group
Carlisle Moon Bear Rescue Support Group
Cheshire and Wirral Animals Asia Support Group
Chris & Pauline Osborne
Cornwall Animals Asia Support Group - Wadebridge area
Deborah Sparkes or Chris Rylatt
Cornwall Animals Asia Support Group - Newquay area
Edinburgh Animals Asia Support Group
Essex Animals Asia Support Group
Exmouth Moon Bear Rescue Support Group
Glastonbury Animals Asia Support Group
Kent Animals Asia Support Group
Kidderminster Moon Bear Rescue Support Group
Julie Stock and Steve Ashcroft
Lancashire Animals Asia Support Group
Liverpool Moon Bear Rescue Support Group
London Animals Asia Support Group
Clive & Chris Tonge
Midlands Animals Asia Support Group
Norfolk Moon Bear Rescue Support Group
Mandy & Gary Hanley
Somerset Moon Bear Rescue Support Group
Northern Ireland Animals Asia Support Group
Northumberland Animals Asia Support Group
Oxfordshire Animals Asia Support Group
Perthshire Moon Bear Rescue Support Group
South Buckinghamshire Animals Asia Support Group
South Devon Animals Asia Support Group
South Gloucestershire Moon Bear Rescue Support Group
South Somerset Moon Bear Rescue Support Group
Southampton Moon Bear Rescue Support Group
Suffolk Moon Bear Rescue Support Group
Surrey Animals Asia Support Group
Swindon Animals Asia Support Group
Teesside Animals Asia Support Group
Tyne & Wear Animals Asia Support Group
Urmston Animals Asia Support Group
Wales Animals Asia Support Group
West Somerset Animals Asia Support Group
West Yorkshire & Humberside Animals Asia Support Group