Here’s why the new fivers are such a dismay

Alice Hiley·19 January 2017·4 min read
Here’s why the new fivers are such a dismay

When the Bank of England confirmed that the new fancy five pound notes contain small amounts of tallow, thousands of vegans and vegetarians across the country were dismayed, myself included.

Tallow is a substance rendered from hard animal fat found around the kidneys or stomach of sheep or cattle, and it has been used in the polymer which lines the water-resistant surface of the new notes. One man started a petition, which now needs less than 20,000 signatures to reach its goal of 150,000, calling for a veggie-friendly replacement banknote to be made.

According to Professor David Solomon, who invented the new fivers, vegetarians and vegans are being ‘stupid’ about this issue. He said that the amount of tallow contained in each fiver is ‘trivial’ and that the benefits – less contamination with drugs and germs, less deforestation to source the paper – outweigh this small drawback. But should any amount of suffering be trivialised and brushed off in this way?

A lot of people were quick to helpfully remind veggies that animal products are used in pretty much every modern object you’d find in your home. About ten people must have asked me whether I was upset about the dinosaurs that died to make the plastic cup I was drinking from. But while vegan soaps, soy candles, cruelty free make ups , reusable bags etc. are available pretty much everywhere for those who choose to look for them, it’s impossible to go without spending money. And asking for your change in pound coins at a checkout, or going into a bank to replace the fivers you’ve been given by an ATM, is an embarrassing and unnecessary hassle for all involved.

It’s not just vegetarians and vegans who are affected: many communities avoid animal products on religious grounds. Some Hindu temples have banned the notes as they believe cows are sacred, and the National Council of Hindu Temples said in a statement that the new fiver is not just money, but ‘a medium for communicating pain and suffering.’

It might sound extreme to refuse to go near the new notes altogether, but it’s important to give people the choice to live a life that’s as meat-filled or as cruelty-free as they want. The Bank of England advertised the new notes as ‘cleaner, safer, and stronger’ than the old, but not everyone who’s now being effectively forced to use them on a daily basis would value these qualities over the lives lost to produce them.

Plenty of countries which switched to plastic or polymer cash years before the UK have had no problem making their notes meat-free. Surely Britain should be following suit?

The petition to remove tallow from banknotes has been delivered to the Bank of England premises. Thankfully, the Bank of England have issued a statement saying that they’ve taken note of our concerns, and they’re working with their supplier to come up with ‘potential solutions’ to try and make the notes accessible to all.