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12/10/2009

Foot Guard & Bearskin


This is a photo a a Foot Guard. The Foot Guards are the Infantry regiments of the Household Division of the British Army. There have been six regiments of foot guards,
the Guards Machine Gun Regiment was formed during the First World War, was disbanded in 1920; the five others still exist : Grenadier Guards, Coldstream Guards, Scots Guards, Irish Guards, and Welsh Guards.
The tall fur cap is called a bearskin. The standard bearskin of the British Foot Guards is 18 inches tall, weighs 1.5 pounds, is made from the fur of the Canadian black bear. However, an officer's bearskin is made from the fur of the Canadian brown bear as the female brown bear has thicker, fuller fur, and is dyed black. The British Army purchase the hats, which are known as caps, from a British hatmaker which sources its pelts from an international auction. The hatmakers purchase between 50 and 100 black bear skins each year at a cost of about £650 each. If properly maintained, the caps last for decades; some caps in use are reportedly more than 100 years old.
On August 3, 1888 The New York Times reported that bearskin caps might be phased out because of a shortage of bear skins. The article stated that, at that time, bearskin hats cost £7/5s each (£600 in 2007 pounds) and noted “it can readily be seen what a price has to be paid for keeping up a custom which is rather old, it is true, but is practically a useless one save for the purpose of military display..”
In 1997 Minister for Defence Procurement said that he wanted to see bearskins phased out as soon as possible due to ethical concerns, but no replacement was available at that time.
In 2005 the Ministry of Defence began a two-year test of artificial fur for the hats. The army has already replaced beaver hats and leopard skins, worn by some of its soldiers, with artificial materials. In March 2005, Labour MP Chris Mullin called for an immediate ban on bearskin hats stating that they "have no military significance and involve unnecessary cruelty."
Animal rights group People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals has protested against the continued use of real fur for the guards’ hats, alleging that the animals are killed cruelly. For several years, PETA members have held demonstrations, including one with 70 naked protesters at St. Peter's Hill, near St Paul's Cathedral, in 2006. PETA wants the fur hats to be replaced with synthetic materials and claims that the Ministry of Defence has not done enough to find alternatives.
Supporters of the headgear claim that the animals used are not killed for their fur but are roadkill or culled animals. A website purporting to be “an historical encyclopedia of the land forces of Britain, the Empire and Commonwealth” claims that Inuit hunters cull 40,000 black bears annually out of a population of more than a million...

1 comment:

Martina said...

I do like this photo very much. It's very hard (at last for me) to take an inventive and creative photo of a subject like this - photographed a hundred thousand times. But you did it very well. The composition and lighting is great.