May 21, 2006

UK Protesters Go Naked over Canadian Bearskins

LONDON (Reuters) - Around 100 animal rights campaigners stripped naked in central London on Sunday to protest the use of traditional bearskin hats worn by military guards on ceremonial parade.

Wearing nothing but bear masks and carrying placards saying "Bears Slaughtered for the Queen's Guards -- Indefensible," the group gathered to call on the Queen and the Ministry of Defense to end use of the foot-high bear pelt hat known as a busby.

"The Ministry of Defense has blood on its hands while it allows bears to be slaughtered for ceremonial caps when beautiful synthetics are available," says PETA's Anita Singh.

A spokesman for the Ministry of Defense said they were looking for alternatives to the Canadian bearskin used for the hats but that it was proving very difficult.

The ministry told the BBC three years ago that skins for the hats are a by-product of bear culls by the Canadian government.

Soldiers wearing the hats can be seen all year outside the Buckingham Palace, where the changing of the guard is a popular tourist attraction.

Wearing bearskins is thought to have been a tradition of some regiments since 1815 when the monarch granted the right to don the head gear in recognition of the defeat of Napoleon's bearskin-wearing Imperial Guard at the Battle of Waterloo.