Stephen Fry wants King’s Guards to ditch bear fur

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Bearskin caps are made from the fur of black bears hunted in Canada
By Sean Coughlan
Royal correspondent

Stephen Fry has called for an end to the use of real fur in the bearskin caps worn by the King’s Guard on duties such as guarding Buckingham Palace.

The actor has backed an animal welfare campaign calling for fake fur to be used rather than real bear fur.

“Tradition is never an excuse for cruelty,” says Mr Fry, who is narrating a video which shows undercover film of how black bears are killed.

The Ministry of Defence says the bear fur is from “legal and licensed hunts”.

Tall black bearskin hats are a familiar sight at ceremonial military events, such as the Changing of the Guard outside Buckingham Palace.

Stephen Fry says buying fur for soldiers’ caps is incentivising the hunting of bears

The King, who is a keen environmentalist, and other members of the Royal Family, are seen wearing bearskins at parades such as Trooping the Colour.

But Mr Fry wants to “stop using the fur of slaughtered wildlife” for such caps, arguing that there is good quality artificial fur available.

He narrates a video for the animal rights group, People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals (PETA), which criticises how bears are “mercilessly killed by trophy hunters” and says their fur is used “to make the caps worn by the King’s Guard”.

Film gathered by undercover campaigners in Canada shows a bear killed by hunters

It takes at least one bear to provide enough fur for each cap, says Mr Fry, who was a guest at last May’s Coronation.

A supporter of the animal welfare group made an undercover video which claims to show hunters putting down buckets of strongly-scented food as bait, and then shooting black bears with crossbow bolts when they approach.

Mr Fry’s narration says that bears might not be killed at once, but might die later from infected wounds or blood loss. The bears are then disembowelled and it’s claimed body parts are used for trophies and their fur sold.

“By continuing to purchase caps made of black bear fur, the UK government drives demand for pelts and effectively incentivises hunters,” says Mr Fry.

The bear was attracted by the food bait and then hit by hunters using crossbows

“Britain has always prided itself on being sporting, but these bears – lured with cookies to the hunters’ hiding place – stand no chance of survival.”

Kate Werner of PETA says: “The UK government is sponsoring bait-and-kill sport hunting of mothers and other bears.” PETA says it will share the video footage with King Charles, as it asks him to support a switch from real to artificial fur.

But a Ministry of Defence spokeswoman says that its bear pelts are sourced from authorised hunts and a regulated Canadian fur market: “To date and to the department’s knowledge, an alternative has yet to meet the standards required to provide an effective replacement for the bearskin ceremonial caps.”

Buckingham Palace declined to comment.

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