Canadian soldiers getting fur-trimmed winter hats, angering animal-rights groups

Steve Mertl
Daily BrewOctober 5, 2011

What's next, puttees and Sam Browne belts?

Over the objection of animal-rights advocates, Canadian soldiers will once again have fur-trimmed hats as part of their winter gear, The Globe and Mail reports.

Apparently, the Department of National Defence decided the existing winter tuque wasn't cutting it and, besides, there's a push on by the Conservative government to restore some of the Canadian armed forces' traditions.

The Globe says defence is buying a thousand winter caps trimmed with muskrat fur at a cost of $65,000.

"It has recently been identified that the winter tuque does not meet the Canadian Forces requirements in our Canadian climate," department spokeswoman Josée Hunter told the Globe.

The military began replacing traditional fur caps - except for the bearskin caps worn by the red-coated ceremonial guard - after unification of the forces in the late 1960s.

But the fur hat with ear flaps, dubbed the Yukon cap, is making a comeback now.

"DND has reintroduced fur for the Yukon cap because the current winter tuque and synthetic version of the Yukon cap did not meet the specific requirements of the (Canadian Forces), including the thermal requirements due to our Canadian climate," Hunter said via email.

But animal-rights groups are upset at the news.

"There are synthetics that are just as good and that don't necessitate the killing of animals," Elizabeth Sharpe of the World Society for the Protection of Animals said from Toronto. "Killing animals for their fur is completely unnecessary and cruel."

Lesley Fox of the Association for the Protection of Fur-Bearing Animals says muskrats sometimes chew off their limbs to free themselves from leg-hold traps. She called the government's move surprising.

"When we think of Canada, we think of celebrating wildlife, not wearing it," Fox said. "Any time you have a government or one of its departments wearing fur, it really misrepresents the current values of Canadians."

Defence's Hunter pointed out the military's hats are modelled on those worn by the RCMP.

Fur military hats originated with British troops serving in Canada in the 1800s and the muskrat cap was introduced in the 1920s.

The move comes on the heels of a decision to restore the royal designation to the air force and navy after decades of homogenization under the Liberal-originated unification policy.

By the way, puttees were protective leg wrappings worn by cavalry troops and soldiers in the trenches of the First World War. The Sam Browne belt, which still shows up on some dress uniforms and on police officers, was invented by British Army Capt. Sam Browne in the 19th century to make it easier for officers to draw their swords or pistols.

(Getty Images)