The iconic bearskin hats worn by the Queen’s guards for more than 200 years are facing a threat from from Brexit deals as activists push to ban fur sales.
Discussions have been held between animal welfare minister Zac Goldsmith and Humane Society International UK (HSI) as the Government aims to ‘raise standards’, two decades after fur farming was made illegal.
New plans could see the elimination of bearskins worn by the British Foot Guards – made with fur from the Canadian black bear – along with the House of Lords ermine, The Express reports.
Environmentalist Lord Goldsmith, who entered the House of Lords after losing his seat in the previous general election, is said to be eager to bring in new legislation in 2021 when Britain is no longer bound by EU single market rules.
Currently, European Union law prohibits Britain from importing seal products from commercial hunts, along with cat and dog fur.
These rules will stay in place until the end of the Brexit transition period on December 31, but when Britain fully leaves the bloc next year, the possibility of a unilateral ban on trading in fur could arise.
Future laws concerning the industry would require justification on protecting animal welfare ground in order to comply with World Trade Organisation rules, it is understood.
Seven Army regiments, including the Coldstream Guards and Welsh Guards, are authorised to wear the 18-inch black headwear following the defeat of French Emperor Napoleon in 1815.
The British Army is believed to buy between 50 and 100 of the hats each year, costing roughly £650 each.
At least 81 MPs and 750,000 Britons support a ban on the sale of fur, HSI claims.
The Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (Defra) said: ‘We have some of the highest welfare standards in the world and that is both a source of pride and a clear reflection of British attitudes towards animals.
‘Fur farming has rightly been banned in this country for nearly 20 years and at the end of the transition period we will be able to properly consider steps to raise our standards still further.
‘That is something the Government is very keen to do.’
The traditional shtreimel fur hat, which is often worn by married Haredi Jewish men, could also face changes.
It is not yet clear which specific items could be banned, but HSI said ‘pragmatic exemptions’ would be in place.
Lord Goldsmith is set to speak at an event called No Business in Fur next month.
If any new plans are announced, a consultation will give an opportunity for businesses to make their case, it is understood.
HSI said that the fur industry was ‘desperate to shake off its reputation for animal suffering’ but there was no escaping the ‘grim truth’ of battery cages.
It added that a ban on fur sales was not the same as a ban on wearing fur, and there would be no ‘wardrobe police’, claiming that Britain could emulate the recent California fur ban which allows exceptions for religious or cultural attire.
A spokesman for the British Fur Trade Association said that fur was a ‘natural, sustainable product’ which comes from ‘regulated and humane sources’, and the Government should reject pressure from animal rights groups and ‘focus on the issues that actually matter to people”.