Bank Note Controversy Sparks Vegan Debate

Opinion divided as Bank of England sticks with animal fat in notes

After ongoing controversy, The Bank of England have finally decided not to withdraw the £5 note which contains traces of tallow. In fact, they revealed that a £10 banknote that also contains this rendered form of cow fat, will be printed this September too.

“Withdrawing £5 polymer banknotes and stopping production of £10 polymer banknotes would have significant implications for the Bank’s anti-counterfeiting strategy and threaten continuity of supply of banknotes to the public,” it was revealed in Bank of England’s most recent statement. “It would carry environmental risks and impose significant financial costs on the Bank, and thereby the taxpayer, and on the cash industry.”

Vegans and religious groups have raised concerns, deeming the notes unavoidable contradictions to their non-violent beliefs. However, Matthew Glover, founder of the “Try Vegan This January” charity Veganuary responded positively to the announcement:

"It's understandable that people are upset and as a vegan I'd rather not have animal products in the notes in my hand. But, I feel that common sense has prevailed in the Bank of England's decision. It would have cost £70 million to reprint which would have been a big waste of money, time and resources. It's been estimated that half a cow's worth of animal product is in all the notes in circulation. We need to pick our battles and the bigger picture is focusing our attention on the billions of animals exploited for the food we eat."

This contrasted the opinion of another vegan, Chas Newkey-Burden, who wrote in The Guardian this morning:

“The Bank of England’s decision not to withdraw the £5 note which contains traces of cow fat is a slap in the face to the vegans, Hindus, Jains and Sikhs who have voiced their objections to it.”

The article goes on to explore how the bank note symbolises deep-rooted issues including the establishment’s overarching influence, where short-term economic goals are over-prioritised, at the expense of individual freedoms. Whether it’s, for example, not investing in renewable energy, or continuing to send weapons abroad when we know the result is devastation, the point is that ethics are never considered important.

Is this because core values cannot be seen? In the same way mental illness is considered less legitimate than physical iIlness. Similarly, the reason the tallow debate may be ridiculed and not taken seriously is because we cannot see the horrors of the industry this substance comes from.

Nevertheless, we should welcome the attention it brings to this issue and use it as an opportunity to educate. Just as we didn’t know banknotes in the UK contained cow fat, most people know little about the process of meat consumption.

As The Guardian article says:

“A recent study found that 88% of Britons didn’t realise that most pigs are killed at just six months of age, even though their natural lifespan is 15 years. Two-thirds were unaware that on egg farms killing all male chicks at a day or two old is standard practice. Many were unaware that little piglets routinely have their tails amputated and teeth removed without anaesthesia. After becoming aware of this reality, one in six said that they would give up meat and dairy entirely.”

This was despite looking at the environmental implications. When people find out the facts, change happens.

PBN Contributor:

Klaus is the editor and founder of Plant Based News.

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