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October 31, 2022

PETA threatens UK Ministry with legal action over bearskins

People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals, PETA, has warned the UK's Ministry of Defence it will take legal action over its continued use of bearskins despite the animal rights group providing a faux fur option.

By Shemona Safaya

PETA, the animal rights organisation, recently sent a letter to the Ministry of Defence (MoD) threatening legal action if it continued to not consider the faux bear fur alternative that would enable the Ministry to keep its promise to replace the bearskins used for the King’s Guard’s ornamental caps once a suitable material is found.

Even though PETA and global faux fur textile and apparel manufacturer ECOPEL have created a material that satisfies the agreed-upon terms – and a fabric technologist gave a “glowing assessment” of the world’s first faux bear fur – PETA says the MoD is failing to uphold its side of the bargain, refusing to consider the assessment or to trial the faux bear fur against the relevant criteria, which the animal rights organisation identifies as grounds for judicial review due to unlawful conduct.

“The MoD has repeatedly stated that it will test any faux fur PETA presents to it, most recently in a July 2022 parliamentary debate where the former procurement minister said that it is not wedded to bearskin and again reiterated the principled acceptance that if shown to be an appropriate replacement, faux fur would be adopted,” said Lorna Hackett, PETA’s legal counsel from Hackett & Dabbs LLP. “Despite this, the MoD has refused to analyse test results that prove the faux fur meets and exceeds the standards. PETA has been left with no choice but to pursue a judicial review on the grounds of unlawful conduct.”

PETA says the letter details the years of correspondence between the organisation and the MoD, including the repeated assurances from the ministry that a faux bear fur meeting its criteria of being waterproof and having fibres the same length as real bear fur would be adopted.

In May, PETA sent the Ministry a four-page summary of test results, provided by fabric technologist Atom Cianfarani, detailing the faux fur’s performance in drying rate and compression testing – further proving that the material meets and in some areas exceeds the MoD’s requirements, matching the exact length of real bear fur, and is 100% waterproof. But according to PETA, in August, the MoD notified Cianfarani that it would not evaluate the report.

Kate Werner, PETA’s senior campaigns manager, added: “PETA has devoted many years and tens of thousands of pounds to developing and testing this state-of-the-art faux bear fur, yet the Ministry refuses to honour the deal it made. The ECOPEL faux fur not only meets the MoD’s requirements but outperforms bearskin in some areas, so the Ministry has no excuse not to adopt PETA’s vegan upgrade as promised.”

The animal rights group noted that the MoD had refused requests to meet with the group and denied access to its cap makers, even though ECOPEL offered an unlimited amount of the faux fur free of charge until 2030 – which would save taxpayer money and many bears’ lives.

A government e-petition in support of PETA’s campaign amassed more than 100,000 signatures from the UK public, triggering a parliamentary debate in July, the group stated.

After decades of telling the public that its fur is sourced from bears who are killed as part of Canadian government “culls”, the MoD admitted in a Freedom of Information request response that it purchases finished caps and has no knowledge of its supply chain, after PETA found no evidence that any such culls exist in any province or territory of Canada.

Instead, PETA points out, hunters obtain permits to bait and kill bears for “sport”, then sell their fur to auction houses. It takes the skin of at least one bear to make a single cap. Some bears are shot several times before they die, and some escape only to bleed to death. The use of bows and arrows to hunt bears is permitted. Nursing mothers are among those killed and leave behind cubs who starve without them.

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