The brutal trade behind the Army's headwear
Tuesday 11 March 2008
A large black bear and her cub emerge from the undergrowth, drawn to the scent of a rusty oil drum filled with a pungent bait of pizza, doughnuts and skinned animals. As the pair begin to tuck in, a shot rings out and the mother lets out a wounded roar and flees to what is almost certainly a painful and lingering death.
This scene is from secret footage of what animal rights campaigners claimed yesterday is a "cruel and unnecessary" trade in skins from the North American black bear, a trade flourishing partly to enable the British Army to satisfy 200 years of military tradition and crowds of tourists to London.
People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals (Peta) released the film of the "bait and shoot" tactics used by Canadian hunters at Westminster yesterday. The pelts are sold to fur auctioneers, whose clients include companies hired by the Ministry of Defence to supply Britain's illustrious Guards regiments with bearskin hats for use in ceremonial duties such as the annual Trooping the Colour ceremony to mark the Queen's birthday.
Peta, which is asking the MoD to use synthetic materials when it needs replacements for the hats, has figures showing £321,000 of taxpayers' money has been spent since 2002 at Canadian fur auctions to buy black bearskins to refurbish its stock of 2,500 hats at a cost of £650 per pelt. The Army needs about 50 bearskins a year, anti-cruelty activists say.
The welfare group used a press conference in the Houses of Parliament to release footage shot last October of how hunters in Ontario exploit the bears' liking for easy pickings.
The method is banned in the European Union and many American states as well as British Columbia in Canada. A preference for adult mother bears with cubs, because then she has a particularly thick and lustrous hide, results in many young bear orphans. Research in Canada suggests 70 per cent of orphaned cubs die within 12 months due to disease, starvation and predators.
Ann Widdecombe, the former Tory minister, who is among 200 MPs who signed an early day motion calling on the MoD to use synthetic materials, said: "Each year, tens of thousands of North American bears die in this practice. The bears are shot, sometimes several times, before they die. Such practices would not be tolerated here. We complain to Canada about the slaughter of seal pups and yet the Ministry of Defence is buying material that has been produced in this exceptionally cruel fashion."
An MoD spokeswoman said: "Some alternatives to real fur are already in use by the Royal Artillery and others, and we are in discussions with Peta to identify improved fake fur. A lightweight synthetic alternative has not as yet emerged which keeps its appearance and shape in all weather conditions."
There are about 600,000 North American black bears and 10 per cent are killed every year. The species is not endangered.
newsFormer soldier taped 33 of the animals to the floor and then stamped on them one by one
Michelle Nijhuis' daughter insists (s)he is, and she learnt a valuable lesson on gender in books
Geoffrey Macnab reviews American Hustle, also starring Christian Bale and Bradley Cooper
news Opponents claim it would stop performers such as Beyonce and Madonna appearing on TV
It takes a platoon of chefs, litres of brandy and rum, and almost 100kg of dried fruit
Sun will 'flip upside down' within weeks, says Nasa
Lee Rigby murder: How killers Michael Adebolajo and Michael Adebowale became ultra-violent radicals
Cycle death inquest: Boyfriend hugs driver of 32 tonne tipper truck that killed his girlfriend
Paul Walker death caused by speed alone
Apollo Theatre collapse: Scores injured after ceiling collapses in London's West End
Exclusive: Young people ‘want UK to stay in Europe’: Four in 10 adults aged 18 to 24 are ‘firmly in favour’ of membership, poll shows
Tom Daley ‘is gay because his father died’ says UK evangelist
Iain Duncan Smith leaves Commons food banks debate early
Kiss and yell: Italian protester charged with sexual assault after kissing riot police officer
PM denies two child limit for benefits is part of Tory welfare policy
Anachronistic and iniquitous, grammar schools are a blot on the British education system
- 1 America's 'virgin births'? One in 200 mothers 'became pregnant without having sex'
- 2 North Koreans are gasping for the truth: Let's give it to them
- 3 Sun will 'flip upside down' within weeks, says Nasa
- 4 Christmas comes early: Justin Bieber is 'retiring from music'
- 5 Cycle death inquest: Boyfriend hugs driver of 32 tonne tipper truck that killed his girlfriend
- < Previous
- Next >
Negotiable: Capita Education Resourcing Permanent Team: HoD Maths Salary: MP...
£600 - £700 per day: Harrington Starr: Client based in West London is looking ...
Negotiable: Capita Education Resourcing Permanent Team: Teacher of English MP...
Negotiable: Capita Education Resourcing Permanent Team: Teacher of Yr6 Gillin...