Armed Forces: Furs

Ministry of Defence written question – answered on 12th January 2016.

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Photo of Alex Cunningham Alex Cunningham Shadow Minister (Environment, Food and Rural Affairs)

To ask the Secretary of State for Defence, how many bearskins and other associated headgear containing real fur his Department purchased in each of the last 10 years.

Photo of Alex Cunningham Alex Cunningham Shadow Minister (Environment, Food and Rural Affairs)

To ask the Secretary of State for Defence, what the expected lifespan of each bearskin and other associated headgear containing real fur used by his Department is before replacement is required.

Photo of Alex Cunningham Alex Cunningham Shadow Minister (Environment, Food and Rural Affairs)

To ask the Secretary of State for Defence, how much his Department has spent on research and development to find a synthetic alternative to bear pelts for the making of bearskins and other associated headgear containing real fur in each of the last 10 years.

Photo of Alex Cunningham Alex Cunningham Shadow Minister (Environment, Food and Rural Affairs)

To ask the Secretary of State for Defence, how much his Department spent on purchasing bearskins and other associated headgear containing real fur in each of the last 10 years.

Photo of Alex Cunningham Alex Cunningham Shadow Minister (Environment, Food and Rural Affairs)

To ask the Secretary of State for Defence, what assessment he has made of the prevailing animal welfare standards of the bear cull in Canada that provides pelts for the making of bearskins and other associated headgear containing real fur by use by the British armed forces.

Photo of Philip Dunne Philip Dunne Minister of State (Ministry of Defence) (Defence Procurement)

The Ministry of Defence (MOD) does not buy bear pelts; it buys ceremonial caps direct from suppliers who source pelts from animals culled as part of a programme to manage the wild population licensed by the Canadian government. Animal welfare standards relating to the bear cull are a matter for the Canadian government.

The MOD also purchases coney skin (rabbit fur) for the Royal Engineers’ and Royal Signals’ busby and fox fur for the Royal Horse Artillery, Kings Troop Officers’ busby. The current contract requires a commitment to sustainable procurement.

Depending on usage and maintenance, bearskin busbys can last for up to 50 years. The coney skin and fox fur busbys have indefinite lifespans if properly maintained.

Calendar Year

Cost of Bearskin Busby Headgear (£)

Financial Year

Cost of Coney Skin Busby Headgear (£)

Cost of Fox Fur Busby Headgear(£)

2005

Not held

2005-06

1,532

0

2006

Not held

2006-07

0

1,472

2007

Not held

2007-08

0

0

2008

31,319

2008-09

9,173

406

2009

148,891

2009-10

0

0

2010

131,886

2010-11

0

0

2011

90,822

2011-12

0

861

2012

126,087

2012-13

1,779

861

2013

65,108

2013-14

0

0

2014

136,671

2014-15

10,257

1,899

2015

149,379

2015-16

2,558

0

All figures are rounded to the nearest pound.

Calendar Year

Number of Bearskin Busby Headgear

Financial Year

Number of Coney Skin Busby Headgear

Number of Busby Headgear made of Fox Fur

2005

Not held

2005-06

4

0

2006

Not held

2006-07

0

2

2007

Not held

2007-08

0

0

2008

35

2008-09

22

1

2009

195

2009-10

0

0

2010

158

2010-11

0

0

2011

99

2011-12

0

1

2012

126

2012-13

4

1

2013

63

2013-14

0

0

2014

127

2014-15

20

2

2015

122

2015-16

5

0

Historically the MOD has undertaken a number of trials on synthetic alternatives to bear skin but none of these matched the properties of the natural material. No trialling has taken place since 2007. Information about costs of these trials is not held centrally and could be provided only at disproportionate cost. In 2012 the Ministry of Defence loaned a sample bearskin to the animal rights organisation, People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals, to aid its research and development programme on a synthetic alternative.

There has been no research and development carried out to find a synthetic alternative to coney skin or fox fur.

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