Saturday, September 16, 2006


The British Army was last night condemned for fuelling a fur trade which leaves baby bears orphaned. Animal rights groups criticised officials for buying the left over skin of black bears from tourist-hunters in Canada. In recent years thousands of American hunters have crossed the border to shoot bears for pleasure. The Army has then been buying the fur to use in making the famous bearskin hats.

Animal welfare groups criticised the army for demanding that the fur for Buckingham Palace guardsmen is culled in springtime when it is at its thickest. This is also the time for breeding and thousands of baby bears are left orphaned after their mother's are shot by tourist hunters. What the hunters leave behind is sold on to the British Army. A spokeswoman for Peta (People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals) said: "It is inexcusable. Tradition has never been a means of justifying cruelty. "The Ministry of Defence has been dragging its feet for years and this organisation which has so much money at its disposal, and can launch a missile even, can't find a replacement material for fur. These hats are not bullet-proof. They are purely ornamental."

She added: "Fur farming has been banned in the UK because people do not like it. Yet tax payers money is being used to buy these hats even though the public doesn't agree with them. "There is no kind way of skinning an animal whether it is a fox or bear. The British Army could save hundreds of bears every year." A spokesman for Tony's Cub Rescue Centre which tries to save baby bears left orphaned in British Columbia said many of the bears whose pelts are sold on die slow deaths after being inexpertly shot by tourists. He said: "We only save a very small percentage." It was also revealed that bears are enticed with meat, doughnuts and even honey in order to make them easier for paying hunters to shoot. The spokesman added: "It is like shooting fish in a barrel."

The British Army has spent 321,000 pounds in the last five years on 431 bearskin "caps" at the cost of the tax payer. Last night a spokesman for the MoD said the bear fur trade was a matter for the Canadian government. The MoD has been researching the use of fake fur for bearskin hats for nearly 20 years but has not as yet found one it considers suitable.

The standard bearskin of the British Foot Guards is 18 inches tall, weighs one and a half pounds and is made from the fur of the Canadian black bear. Some which are still in use are over 100 years old. The fur of an adult black bear is used to make one complete cap.



Even though corruption is undoubtedly the biggest single factor in keeping the third world poor

Beitain last night threw down a direct challenge to Paul Wolfowitz’s leadership of the World Bank as the Government announced that it was withholding a 50 million pound payment in protest at the conditions attached to aid for poorer countries. The decision by Hilary Benn, the International Development Secretary, reflects growing concern over Mr Wolfowitz’s aggressive anti-corruption campaign, which has led to the suspension of mutlimillion- dollar loans and contracts to countries such as Chad, India, Argentina, Congo, Kenya, Ethiopia and Bangladesh.

The unexpectedly robust public attack by Mr Benn, who is close to Gordon Brown, will sound alarm bells within the US Administration about relations with Britain when Tony Blair departs No. 10.

Mr Wolfowitz, who took over as President at the World Bank 15 months ago, is best known as one of the chief architects of the Iraq war during his four years as the deputy US Defence Secretary. Critics, who include a clutch of European governments and many senior members of the bank’s staff, claim that the anti-corruption campaign threatens to undermine the bank’s primary purpose of eliminating global poverty by being too ideological, arbitrary and high-handed. “In the same way that the neocons tried to impose democracy on Iraq,” said a source at the bank. “They are trying to impose their own economic and political model on Africa — without recognising the reality of the situation on the ground.”

Mr Benn said that by continuing to foist unwanted policies on developing economies, Mr Wolfowitz had reneged on his commitments to reform the conditions attached to aid programmes. Mr Benn criticised the pressure the World Bank put on poorer countries to pursue privatisations and trade liberalisation. Although he said there was nothing wrong with setting some conditions, “when it comes to economic policy choices I don’t think it’s right that we should be telling other countries what to do”. Mr Benn renewed his attack on Mr Wolfowitz last night, claiming that the World Bank had an excessively narrow focus on fighting corruption. “Our job, and the job of [the bank], is to help eliminate poverty. This means that we should not walk away from our responsibilities to poor people.”

Mr Wolfowitz, who now faces an uncomfortable press conference when he arrives for the bank’s annual meeting in Singapore today, has said that lending has risen slightly under his leadership to $23 billion. He has also said that he does not want to see an estimated 10 to 25 per cent of the money being lost to corruption. Mr Wolfowitz’s allies claim he is being unfairly caricatured by liberals at the bank, who greeted his arrival with satirical claims that he brought along an old “map of Iraq (with hundreds of red x’s denoting ‘WMDs,’ hundreds of black x’s denoting ‘Oil Well$,’ and one blue x denoting ‘decent sushi restaurant’”.

Danny Leipziger, the World Bank’s vice-president for poverty reduction and economic management, said yesterday that Mr Benn’s comments were the first he had heard of Britain’s protest. However, the Government last year registered strong objections against the World Bank’s suspension of $800 million in loans for maternal and children’s health in India because of corruption concerns. The decision, complained Britain, had been taken without proper consultation. Britain and other European countries pressed Mr Wolfowitz in April to put greater emphasis on fighting corruption by building institutions in the developing world rather than simply suspending loans.

Although Mr Brown has worked well with Mr Wolfowitz in the past, some at World Bank suspect he is behind Mr Benn’s assault. They claim that the attack helps put some distance between Mr Brown and the White House, and that it chimes with his ideological bent. “We have seen in the debate about UK public services,” a source close to Mr Wolfowitz said, “that Brown is a ‘spend first, reform later, sort of guy’.” Britain’s suspended 50million pound payment is for a special bank fund and will not affect aid programmes for which Britain is still expected to contribute 500 million next year.

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