Pope Benedict XVI will be hoping for a peaceful 80th birthday today (16 April), and most importantly one without any lavish fur gifts.

The head of the Catholic Church was under the spotlight of Italy's Anti-Vivisection League over the weekend for wearing fur. The Vatican has not yet responded to requests for a ban based on ethical and religious grounds, the animal rights group said.

The activist group has made its appeal ahead of a papal trip later this month to Pavia, which is home to some of Italy's fur-makers.

The UK's anti-vivisection campaigners have also questioned the Vatican's stance towards fur in the past, without any reply.

The pontiff was photographed in a red velvet hat trimmed with a traditional white ermine fur during the winter, known as camauro.