The imposing bearskin helmets of the Queen's Guards stationed at the Buckingham Palace may soon become a thing of the past. Following representations made by an animal welfare group, the British government is reportedly considering doing away with the long-established code of bearskin helmets worn by the guardsmen.
Baroness Taylor, the minister for defense procurement, is due to meet representatives from the People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals (PETA) this week to talk about the idea of using synthetic materials to make the 18-inch helmets, worn by Guards regiments on ceremonial duty at the royal residence.
A spokesman for the Ministry of Defense has confirmed that the meeting would be taking place, but he has not divulged much of details as to the topic of discussion.
"The MoD is not opposed to the use of synthetic materials as an alternative to bearskins, provided such materials meet the requirement for a high quality product that performs adequately in all weather conditions. Regrettably, a suitable alternative continues to prove elusive," the Telegraph quoted him as saying.
Robbie LeBlanc, director of PETA, said: "This meeting is hugely significant for our campaign to save North American bears.
"If she (Baroness Taylor) has a heart and can see the PR nightmare of the MoD continuing to support the Canadian bear slaughter, she can wield her influence and push the MoD to scrap the bearskin caps sooner rather than later."
Comedian Ricky Gervais is also said to have written to Prime Minister Gordon Brown on behalf of PETA, demanding that the MoD stop using Canadian black bear fur for the helmets.
The iconic headgear is worn by regiments of the Grenadier, Welsh, Scots, Irish and Coldstream Guards who make up the Foot Guards in the Army's Household Division, responsible for guarding the Queen.
They have been worn since the Battle of Waterloo, where they were taken as a badge of honor by the Grenadier Guards when they defeated Napoleon's bearskin-wearing Imperial Guard.