Ten wildlife photographers have signed a letter calling on the Ministry of Defence to stop using the fur of black bears for the Queen’s Guard’s famous caps.
The iconic bearskins are used as caps for the Queen’s Guard who protect royal residences in the United Kingdom and tourists will see them in London posted outside Buckingham Palace and St James’s Palace.
Animals rights organization PETA teamed up with the ten photographers to address the letter to Ben Wallace, Secretary of State for Defence and MP at the House of Commons in London.
“As wildlife photographers who have spent our lives documenting the beauty and fragility of the natural world, we are acutely aware of the need to protect — not pillage — the living planet, which includes the animals we share it with. It is for this reason that we ask you to stop funding the slaughter of black bears for the Queen’s Guard’s caps,” reads the letter.
“PETA has informed us that making a single ceremonial hat takes the hide of one bear who was gunned down by hunters. Some of the bears shot for the caps are mothers, and their orphaned cubs are left to starve, meaning one cap can actually represent the slaughter of an entire family.”
The Ministry of Defence (MoD) claims that the bear fur is the by-product of a “cull” overseen by Canadian authorities, where the bears come from. However, the signators of the letter say that federal and provincial Canadian governments have denied the existence of such culls.
“Mr Wallace, the only way bears should be shot is through a lens. And given the availability of high-quality, animal-free alternatives, there’s no longer any excuse for using the fur of slaughtered wildlife. We urge you to make the switch to humane faux fur, for which no one must be killed. Please, animals’ lives depend on it,” adds the letter.
The letter is signed by Andy Parkinson (photographer), Megan McCubbin, (zoologist, wildlife TV presenter, and photographer), Aaron “Bertie” Gekoski (photojournalist and filmmaker), Britta Jaschinski (photographer and co-founder of Photographers Against Wildlife Crime), Keith Wilson (photo editor, journalist, and co-founder of Photographers Against Wildlife Crime), Craig Jones (photographer), Danny Green (photographer), Jo-Anne McArthur (photographer and founder and president of We Animals Media), Richard Peters (photographer), and Mark Sisson (photographer).
A History of the Bearskin
The tourist-pleasing guards are fully-operational British Army soldiers and are tasked with protecting the Queen at her various residences in London. A standard bearskin is 16 inches tall and made from the fur of the Canadian black bear. However, an officer’s bearskin is made from the fur of a Canadian brown bear but then dyed black. Each cap costs around £650 ($820) to make and if maintained correctly can last decades.
PETA has held a number of protests against the caps. The organization alleges that the animals are killed cruelly and wants the fur caps to be replaced with synthetic materials.
Megan McCubbin has worked to rehabilitate bears from the bile-farming industry in China, and Aaron Gekoski, former Wildlife Photographer of the Year winner, started the Raise the Red Flag campaign to end cruel wildlife tourism.
The letter comes ahead of the Queen’s Platinum Jubilee this week where she will become the first British Monarch to mark 70 years on the throne.
Image credits: Photos licensed via Depositphotos.