Actor Stephen Fry takes aim at royal guards to ban the use of bear fur caps

LONDON (Reuters) – British actor Stephen Fry teamed up with animal welfare campaigners on Wednesday to demand that soldiers of the King’s Guard stop using real fur in their famous tall bearskin caps.

The scarlet-clad soldiers wear the foot-high bear pelt headwear, known as a busby, for ceremonial events and when they fill sentry posts outside Buckingham Palace as they have done for centuries.

But Fry, one of Britain’s best-known actors and TV broadcasters, called for the soldiers to replace the “fur of slaughtered wildlife” with a fake version.

“Tradition is never an excuse for cruelty,” Fry, who has narrated a graphic online video showing a disemboweled and dismembered black bear, said in a statement.

He said a failure to shift to faux bearskin “would be unconscionable – and un-British”.

The video, which was filmed in Canada and released by animal rights group PETA (People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals), showed hunters baiting black bears with buckets of food before shooting them with crossbows.

A spokesperson at Britain’s Ministry of Defence said bears were not hunted to order and the bear pelts used “are a product of legal and licensed hunts”.

“To date and to the department’s knowledge, an alternative has yet to meet the standards required to provide an effective replacement for the bearskin ceremonial caps,” the spokesperson said.

The King’s Guard are part of the British Army’s Household Division who perform public duties and are often involved in state ceremonies, including ‘Trooping the Colour’ which celebrates the reigning British monarch’s official birthday.

King Charles, who ascended to the throne after the death of his mother Queen Elizabeth in 2022, donned a bearskin hat himself at his birthday parade through central London last year.

(Reporting by Farouq Suleiman; Editing by Michael Holden and Jonathan Oatis)