A furor over fur hats is pitting tradition versus toques after the Royal Canadian Mounted Police put forth a request for more than 4,000 hats made of muskrat fur.
The traditional winter hat of choice for the Mounties has big, furry ear flaps and works better than wool or fake fur hats when patrolling the great white north, the agency said. Canada’s national police service is requesting 4,470 new muskrat hats.
“The fur must be Eastern Canada or New York state spring muskrat No. 1 quality, fully furred. Only extra-large skins with the belly trimmed off must be used,” reads the RCMP request.
Since each hat is made of two to three pelts, it would take approximately 12,000 muskrats to fill the order, according to a CBC News report.
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Naturally, the request has outraged animal rights groups, who are encouraging Mounties to choose a fur-free option also offered to RCMP officers.
“Trapping of muskrats is inherently inhumane, and uses traps that are indiscriminate and cruel, regardless of what a for-profit industry may profess,” said the Fur-Bearers, a wildlife advocacy group in Vancouver, in a blog post. The group is mounting a letter-writing campaign in protest.
The RCMP tried to phase out the muskrat hats in 2014, saying it would instead issue officers a wool winter cap, commonly called a toque in Canada. But the then-Conservative government ordered the Mounties to buy the muskrat hats, saying it would protect the vital fur trade in the provinces.
“I would like to assure Canadians that the historic fur winter hats worn by the RCMP will not be discontinued despite the efforts of the radical animal rights activists,” said Leona Aglukkaq, Canada’s Environment Minister, in a 2014 interview with Public Radio International. “Our government will always stand up for Canada’s hunters and trappers.”
Alan Herscovi, a spokesman for the Fur Council of Canada, said Canada’s rural trappers made $1.7 million from harvesting around 315,000 muskrats in 2016.
“It’s nice to see that recognition of Canadian heritage. The fur trade is part of Canada’s history, of course, and still makes a lot of sense today because it is a natural, biodegradable, renewable resource,” Herscovici said.
The hats retail for $139.95, according to FurHatWorld.