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Last Updated: Sunday, 21 May 2006, 14:15 GMT 15:15 UK
Naked demo against bearskin hats
Naked protesters
The protesters came from across Europe
Animal welfare activists have staged a naked protest against the bearskin hats worn by Buckingham Palace guards.

The People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals (Peta) were calling for the Queen and the Ministry of Defence (MoD) to end the "massacre of black bears".

The 70 protesters, most of whom wore nothing but bear masks, claim the bears are slaughtered in Canada to make the famous headgear.

The protest was at St Peters Hill, near St Paul's Cathedral, in central London.

Some of the protesters held signs stating Bears Slaughtered for the Queen's Guards - Indefensible .

The demonstration lasted about 20 minutes and was meant to symbolise a pile of dead bears.

Guards
People wanted to show how passionate they are about this cause - drastic things call for drastic measures
Peta's Anita Singh

People from as far away as Australia, Poland, Spain, Hungary and Sweden were among those taking part.

Peta's Anita Singh claimed said at the protest: "People wanted to show how passionate they are about this cause. Sometimes drastic things call for drastic measures.

"Showing their vulnerable side depicts exactly what these bears go through. They are naked, they are vulnerable, and we are killing them.

"It is indefensible cruelty. If you walk up and down the British high street you would be hard-pressed to find a reputable retailer selling fur because there is such a social stigma attached to it."

Fake fur

The MoD said attempts to find an alternative had so far proved unsuccessful, but it was continuing to search for something to replace the bearskin.

Lieutenant Colonel Peter Dick-Peter said fake fur did not have the same qualities as the real thing.

"It looks like a 60s Beatle wig. It just doesn't look right and if the wind blows it sticks up.

"The rain soaks into the fibre and it ends up an extremely heavy piece of sodden material on somebody's head."

The towering black hats date back almost 200 years and are a familiar sight outside Buckingham Palace and in ceremonies such as Trooping the Colour.

They were first worn in 1815 in recognition of the defeat at Waterloo of Napoleon's French Imperial Guard, who also wore bearskins.


SEE ALSO:
Guards' bearskins under fire
12 Mar 03 |  England


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