As a show of British military finery, the Trooping of the Colour has had no equal for 258 years.

The Guards parade for the monarch and tourists in their uniforms with animal skins on their heads.

But as the Queen took the salute to mark her 80th birthday celebrations, some 4,000 miles away a group of hunters were preparing to go into the dense woodlands of Canada and kill a Canadian black bear.

If the animal is fortunate, it will die quickly from a shot to the head before having its head and paws severed as trophies and the skin sold to a fur auctioneer. In the past five years alone, 494 of those pelts have been sold at a cost of £321,000 to a long-standing customer of the Canadian fur industry the British Ministry of Defence.

The Army confirmed it would continue to buy between 50 and 100 bearskins a year after it declared a trial to replace the distinctive headwear with hats fashioned from synthetic fur had failed because they got "waterlogged" on rainy days.

Anita Singh, campaign co-ordinator for Peta, (People foR the Ethical Treatment of Animals) said: "The taxpayer should know that hundreds of thousands of pounds of public money is being spent to perpetuate this slaughter".

A Cartmell, Bolton Green Party