Photos by AP

He may have left a trail of broken hearts behind, but Prince William isn’t charming People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals. The Duke of Cambridge raised the animal-rights group’s hackles for wearing a bearskin hat at the Trooping the Colour military parade on Sunday. Held in conjunction with his grandmother the Queen’s official birthday, the annual pageant amassed rows of soldiers marching in the British army’s iconic red tunics and tall, furry hats, which British singer-songwriter Morrissey once derided for reflecting the “human spirit at its lowest.”

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Because a bear’s fur is densest on the ridge of the animal’s back, a single bearskin cap requires up to an entire hide, according to PETA, addings that many bears are not killed instantly when they’re shot. “Some escape the hunters only to die later from their wounds,” a spokeswoman says. “When mother bears are killed, nursing cubs are often left behind to starve.”

Because a bear’s fur is densest on the ridge of the animal’s back, a single cap requires up to an entire hide.

Although PETA, along with Stella McCartney, presented a faux-fur prototype that passed the Ministry of Defence’s water-resistance tests in 2010, a more refined sample is still pending development. “In the meantime,” says the organization, “countless Canadian bears are still being shot (sometimes multiple times) and killed so that their fur can be turned into ceremonial caps that serve absolutely no military purpose.”

PETA wrote to the Duke after spotting him in a bearskin hat during rehearsals. Below, the letter in full.

7 June 2011
His Royal Highness the Duke of Cambridge
Clarence House, St. James’s Palace
London SW1A 1BA
United Kingdom

Your Royal Highness,

I am writing on behalf of People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals (PETA) U.K. and the millions of Britons who oppose cruelty to animals to respectfully request that you not wear a real bearskin at this year’s Trooping of the Colour. Each hat represents an orphaned bear cub and a slaughtered mother bear. Please allow me to explain:

Tourists and Londoners alike are horrified when they learn that it can take a bear’s entire hide to make a single Guards’ cap. Video footage shows how bears are killed for their hides. Some mother bears, lured to a bait site, are seen being shot several times, their still-nursing and dependent cubs orphaned outright. Others are ensnared, sometimes for days, in painful steel traps. During hunts, as many as one bear in seven is not killed immediately after being shot, and some escape wounded, presumably dying later from blood loss, infection or starvation. We hope hearing about this terrible cruelty will move you to lend your support to the idea that the caps are no longer appropriate in this century and should henceforth be made of a synthetic material. After all, the celebration and pageantry of The Trooping of the Colour could be so much more joyful if it didn’t involve the corpses of hundreds of dead bears.

For 2011’s Trooping of the Colour, please won’t you set a compassionate example for others to follow by declining to wear real bearskin? I look forward to hearing from you.

Yours sincerely,
Mimi Bekhechi

+ Press Release

+ People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals