Spending on British soldiers’ bearskin Busby hats has rocketed by nearly 500% since 2008 – despite thousands of troops being axed.
Seven years ago a Labour Defence Minister, Baroness Taylor, met with animal rights campaigners to review designs of the controversial headgear.
Activists hoped the Ministry of Defence would finally stop buying traditional caps made from real fur.
But the Government has admitted that not only is it still using real fur – but spending on the caps has soared.
Just 35 of the caps, worn by Guardsmen on ceremonial and state occasions , were bought in 2008, costing £31,000.
But the bill ballooned to £149,379 last year, with taxpayers forking out for 122 of the caps. They cost an average of £1,224 each.
The revelation triggered fresh calls for the hats to be phased out.
Shadow Environment Minister Alex Cunningham , who uncovered the figures, said: “The British public will be horrified that Canadian black bears are being slaughtered, often indiscriminately, to provide fur headgear for British soldiers.
“The Government have admitted spending hundreds of thousands of pounds on fur headgear over the last few years but despite escalating costs, and evident animal welfare issues, have no plans to research alternatives.
“With leaders in the British fashion industry prepared to develop alternatives, it’s time to think again.”
Parliamentary questions revealed 925 of the caps have been bought over the last decade .
The total cost was more than £880,000 – an average of £951.53 per cap.
In 2009, 195 hats were bought, costing £148,891 at an average of £763.54.
A year later, the Tories swept to power and announced sweeping defence cuts, slashing the Army by 20,000 soldiers.
But despite the swinging the axe, the Government continued to splash out on new hats – and has bought 695 since 2010.
PETA UK director Mimi Bekhechi said: “Fur farming has been banned in the UK for more than a decade and PETA has shown how shooting bears in the Canadian forest, often orphaning their cubs, is even more cruel than farming, so it’s an outrage for the Ministry of Defence to source real fur for ceremonial attire.
“For each of The Queen’s Guards’ caps , a bear is cruelly killed either by being shot or ensnared, possibly for days, in a painful trap.
“British taxpayers – a good 95% of whom object to killing animals for fur – are unwittingly paying for it.
“With the resources, science and technology at the MoD’s disposal, it’s inexcusable that the same Army which is capable of building some of the most sophisticated equipment and machinery in the world claims that it’s unable to find a cruelty-free replacement.”
The MoD also revealed that 55 coney skin – rabbit fur – Busby hats were bought between 2005 and 2015, costing more than £25,000.
Six fox fur caps were purchased at a price of £5,499.
Defence Minister Philip Dunne said in a written answer: “The Ministry of Defence does not buy bear pelts; it buys ceremonial caps direct from suppliers who source pelts from animals culled as part of a programme to manage the wild population licensed by the Canadian government.
“Animal welfare standards relating to the bear cull are a matter for the Canadian government.
“The MoD also purchases coney skin (rabbit fur) for the Royal Engineers’ and Royal Signals’ Busby and fox fur for the Royal Horse Artillery, Kings Troop Officers’ Busby.
“The current contract requires a commitment to sustainable procurement.
“Depending on usage and maintenance, bearskin Busbys can last for up to 50 years.
“The coney skin and fox fur Busbys have indefinite life spans if properly maintained.”
This article was first published by The Mirror on 14 Jan 2016. Lead Image: There are fresh calls for the Army to abandon the real fur headgear – Photo REUTERS/Stefan Wermuth.
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