Animal rights group PETA on Friday said it was taking legal action against the UK’s Department of Defense for its refusal to test a faux fur version of the special bearskin hats worn. by the guardians of the ritual.
The tall black hats are worn by elite regiments, including at the Changing of the Guard ceremony outside Buckingham Palace, and are one of the UK’s most famous symbols.
PETA has long campaigned to discontinue the use of Canadian Black Bear fur and has developed a prototype replacement hat made of shaggy acrylic.
It said it had applied for “judicial review” of the Department of Defense (MoD) decision, alleging “unlawful conduct”.
“We are seeking court intervention for the MoD to fully evaluate the report and make a new decision following due process,” said charity attorney Lorna Hackett.
Kate Werner, PETA’s senior campaign manager, added: “Unfortunately, they’re just holding back progress by not moving forward with the faux fur hat.
“They refuse to test it, which they have pledged to do many times over the years,” she told AFP.
“And so we’re now at the stage where we’re launching a legal challenge to try to force the MoD to reconsider its decision.”
A MoD spokesperson said: “We have received legal complaints in this regard and are unable to comment specifically on ongoing legal proceedings.”
PETA tested the faux fur at a MoD-accredited lab and stated that it met the department’s criteria for compression and water repellency.
The government said in a statement earlier this year that there were “no plans” to switch.
It said the PETA-backed faux fur “practically falls short of the standards necessary to provide an effective alternative to our bearskin ceremonial hat”.
– Be licenced –
Werner argued that real fur was not militarily necessary.
“No one will notice,” she said.
“This is an iconic symbol of Britain but we wanted it to reflect the ethos and values of our society.”
The faux fur used in the prototype was made by the French company Ecopel.
Compared to a real bear-skin hat donated by the Department to PETA, the prototype looks smoother and shinier, and Werner describes it as “a lot more luxurious feeling”.
The Department of Defense initially agreed to change the caps, Werner said, and PETA has a “good relationship” with them.
But current defense secretary Ben Wallace, a former army officer, is not supportive.
As a reserve MP, he introduced an amendment calling for the continued use of bear skins.
In July, parliament debated switching to faux fur after an online petition gathered more than 100,000 signatures.
PETA argues that the use of bear fur creates a hunting market and says these animals are shot or killed with bows and arrows.
“Bears are not hunted for the Defense Department,” a spokesman said.
“The bear pelts used are the product of legal and licensed poaching, sourced exclusively from the regulated Canadian market.”
Meanwhile, PETA is also asking King Charles III to trade mink coats for faux fur at his coronation next year.
(Except for the title, this story has not been edited by NDTV staff and is published from an aggregated feed.)
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