A PRO-ANIMAL rights MP has set up a "grisly" encounter after calling for an end to the army tradition of wearing bearskin hats.

Rossendale and Darwen's Janet Anderson is one of more than 45 Labour MPs to sign a Commons motion saying animals are suffering unnecessary cruelty for no military purpose.

And she called for the regiments involved to wear fake fur instead, insisting: "Bearskins are for bears, not Busbies."

Five elite infantry regiments the Coldstream, Scots, Welsh, Irish and Grenadier guards wear the well-known bearskin hats. They were adopted to commemorate Britain's victory in 1815 over Napoleon's forces at Waterloo, where France's elite troops, the Imperial Guard, had worn bearskins to appear more intimidating.

Lancaster and Wyre MP and former Scots Guard Ben Wallace has replied with an amendment to the motion, saying that the bear skins "play an important part in highlighting the regiments' glorious military traditions and service to the sovereign throughout the centuries".

He said the bear skin pelts used for the famous military hat are sourced from a necessary cull of brown bears carried out by Eskimos in northern Canada.

He said if the trade in the skins to make bear skins was ended, it would known a hole in the economy of the Eskimo people and force many to leave their homes to go to the cities and low-paid demeaning jobs.

Past attempts to produce fake bearskin in response to protests have ended in disaster. When it rained the Ministry of Defence said hats became bedraggled "like a bad hair day".

They were also subject to static electricity which was embarrassing when guards passed under electricity pylons.

Mrs Anderson has a strong interest in animal welfare. She has backed the banning of hunting with dogs, a campaign to ban seal culling in Canada and she refuses to wear fur.

She said: "This is cruel to the bears which are culled and the hats are certainly not necessary in the modern army.

"I suggest Mr Wallace goes out and checks his facts."

A spokesman for the MoD said: "The Ministry does appreciate some people have strong feeling about this.

"We are trying to reduce the use of bearskins and we are trialling false fur bearskins."