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Changing hats at Buckingham Palace to save the black bear

 
 
Reply Sat 30 Aug, 2008 08:34 pm
They're changing hats at Buckingham Palace to save the black bear

http://www.visitingdc.com/images/buckingham-palace-picture-4.jpg

The Guards may be about to swap their traditional bearskins for a humane version designed by Stella McCartney

By Rachel Shields
Sunday, 31 August 2008

They have perched atop the heads of straight-faced soldiers for almost 200 years, been photographed by millions of tourists and generated countless protests, but now the controversial bearskin hats worn by the Buckingham Palace Guardsmen finally seem likely to be replaced with a more modern, humane alternative.

The imposing Guards Regiments may soon be topping off their red jackets with natty Stella McCartney or Vivienne Westwood creations, after a meeting next week in which senior MoD officials will consider a range of alternative hats created by leading designers.

Baroness Taylor, the minister for defence procurement, who is responsible for acquiring all of the Army's equipment, will meet with the animal rights group People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals (Peta) to review the designs on Tuesday.

"This meeting is hugely significant for our campaign to save North American bears," said Robbie LeBlanc, director of Peta. "If she has a heart and can see the PR nightmare of the MoD continuing to support the Canadian bear slaughter, she can wield her influence and push the MoD to scrap the bearskin caps sooner rather than later."

An MoD spokesperson confirmed that a private meeting would be taking place next week, and insisted that the MoD is open to alternatives to the traditional bearskin hats.

"The MoD is not opposed to the use of synthetic materials as an alternative to bearskins, provided such materials meet the requirement for a high-quality product that performs adequately in all weather conditions. Regrettably, a suitable alternative continues to prove elusive."

The British designer Vivienne Westwood has been asked by Peta to produce an "innovative" new design, while Stella McCartney and the US designer Marc Bouwer have both agreed to produce caps if commissioned by the MoD.

"I can't imagine a more distinct honour than to be asked to redesign the Royal Guard's bearskin hats with the luxurious faux fur I have used in my collections," said Mr Bouwer, whose fur and leather-free designs have been worn by celebrities including Angelina Jolie and Sarah Jessica Parker.

"I would be delighted to take on this challenge and am confident the outcome would be a wonderful hat that carried on the Guards' tradition, but in a modern way that doesn't involve the taking of bears' lives," he added.

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, it was revealed that the MoD has spent more than £321,000 on bearskins in the past five years.

During the meeting, Lady Taylor and her colleagues will be shown undercover video footage of bears being baited, shot and skinned by Canadian hunters, a recording that will be available on Peta's website.

"We are hoping that we can finally agree on a way forward which displays the will and compassion of the British people and display to the world that we are a caring nation," Mr LeBlanc said.

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.

Peta staged a naked demonstration outside Buckingham Palace in 2006 to protest against the bearskin hats, and next month members launch a new campaign, which is being backed by a host of celebrities including the singers Morrissey and Pink, the designer Sadie Frost and the actor Sir Roger Moore.

The comedian Ricky Gervais last week wrote to Gordon Brown, to ask him to replace the bearskin hats with synthetic alternatives. "I understand and appreciate the importance of uniforms, but continuing to use real fur in the 21st century is inexcusable, regardless of tradition," he wrote.

www.Peta.org.uk You can join the debate at ios.typepad.com

The bear truth: What they say about the hats

50-100 - new bearskin caps are needed every year

£321,000 - is the minimum amount that the Ministry of Defence has spent on bearskins in the past five years

1 - black bear is needed to make one hat for a guardsman

1815 - was the year that bearskin hats were first worn by the Grenadier Guards following the Duke of Wellington's victory at the battle of Waterloo

600,000 - Black bears currently live in North America " a number thought to have fallen from two million

To have your say on this or any other issue visit www.independent.co.uk/IoSblogs

http://www.geo.uu.nl/fg/berendsen/pictures/photography/alaska/Bear.jpg

I'm glad to hear it - about time
Bad enough trying to keep a straight face out there - let alone with naked protesters in ya face!
(i should imagine)


Got any 'good' bear stories??


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Type: Discussion • Score: 3 • Views: 8,768 • Replies: 12
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edgarblythe
 
  2  
Reply Sat 30 Aug, 2008 09:53 pm
@Endymion,
I had no idea they were using real bear fur, in this day and age.
Endymion
 
  2  
Reply Sat 30 Aug, 2008 09:56 pm
@edgarblythe,
One whole bear per hat

Not right
hamburger
 
  2  
Reply Sat 30 Aug, 2008 10:19 pm
@Endymion,
perhaps it was thought that the bears felt honoured to be allowed to give their pelts for her majesty ?
btw weren't "fake" fur hats introduced for the candian honour guard at parliament hill some years ago ?
hbg
hamburger
 
  2  
Reply Sat 30 Aug, 2008 10:24 pm
@hamburger,
RCMP (the mounties) still use muskrat fur hats ("farmbred" it says) .
anyone can buy them for $149 - without the badge , i understand .
hbg

http://www.mountiestore.com/products/usrimage/msmuskrathat.jpg
Endymion
 
  2  
Reply Sat 30 Aug, 2008 10:29 pm
@hamburger,
Quote:
perhaps it was thought that the bears felt honoured to be allowed to give their pelts for her majesty ?
btw weren't "fake" fur hats introduced for the candian honour guard at parliament hill some years ago ?


probably

We've always been one for hanging onto tradition
You can see the deep ridges where the politicians have dragged their heels on this one - but not much longer i don't think. What gets me is that there are still people out there fighting to keep the real fur - I find that quite amazing
Endymion
 
  1  
Reply Sat 30 Aug, 2008 10:35 pm
@hamburger,
Quote:
RCMP (the mounties) still use muskrat fur hats ("farmbred" it says) .


I'm surprised -


Also - there is a kind of irony to all this - i mean the MOD deciding to do the 'humane' thing, like...

Maybe some of the money they save could go to soldiers left wounded by conflict
0 Replies
 
hamburger
 
  2  
Reply Sat 30 Aug, 2008 10:37 pm
@Endymion,
endy :

you provided your own answer : TRADITION - with a capital T (smiles and g'nite)
hbg
Endymion
 
  1  
Reply Sat 30 Aug, 2008 10:44 pm
@hamburger,
if it's good night over there - it must be time for me to kip off over here, f'christ sake!
see ya

endy
0 Replies
 
fishin
 
  2  
Reply Sun 31 Aug, 2008 04:29 am
I wans't aware that the black bears needed "saving". There are plenty of them and their population is steadily increasing. Sounds more like caviung in to PETA's political pressures than an actual "saving" of anything.

I used to guide bear hunters and none of them were ever there to shoot a bear for it's hide. The hides (and gall bladders) were just a by-product that the hunters could sell on occassion to offset the cost of the hunting trip. I don't see how this move is going to reduce the number of bears killed one way or the other.
0 Replies
 
JTT
 
  1  
Reply Sun 31 Aug, 2008 03:36 pm
Why do they have all those guards to protect an old cow?
Endymion
 
  2  
Reply Sun 31 Aug, 2008 05:42 pm
@JTT,
they're there to protect the building - believe me
can't let the rabble get their hands on the silver


hamburger
 
  1  
Reply Sun 31 Aug, 2008 07:53 pm
@Endymion,
same as in stockholm/sweden . when we asked about the "palace guard" , we were politely informed that they would NOT interfere with anyone wanting to attack the members of the royal family . they were there to protect the building .
(wouldn't want to try that at the White House , would you ? GRIN !
btw when we visited washington in 1977 , we also visited the White House .
the bus drove up to the entrance , we disembarked and the "guards" invited us for a tour . no metal detectors , no body search - how the world has changed - and not for the better it seems).
hbg
0 Replies
 
 

 
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