LONDON - Vegans, vegetarians and others in Britain are outraged after it emerged that a new 5 pound ($6) note that went into circulation in September contains an animal product.
The revelation was made this week when the Bank of England responded to an inquiry by tweeting that the plastic polymer notes contain traces of tallow — a substance derived from animal fat that is used in the manufacture of items including soap and candles.
Outrage soon followed on social media.
Clive Shrubsole, a researcher at University College London and a vegetarian, called for the notes to be removed from circulation. "Offensive and a disgrace to all vegans and vegetarians," he tweeted.
A petition on Change.org calling for the central bank to stop using animal products in its notes has attracted more than 96,000 signatures.
The document says: “The new £5 notes contain animal fat in the form of tallow. This is unacceptable to millions of vegans, vegetarians, Hindus, Sikhs, Jains and others in the U.K.
“We demand that you cease to use animal products in the production of currency that we have to use.”
Hi @Jools_Orca there is a trace of tallow in the polymer pallets used in the base substrate of the polymer £5 notes— Bank of England (@bankofengland) November 28, 2016
Ali Ryland, from the U.K.-based Vegan Society, told BBC radio she was not surprised at the makeup of the cash, considering the widespread use of animal derivatives in everyday products, but was disappointed "just to hear again that animals are being used and exploited in this way."
She said there were many plant-based alternatives to tallow. Some vegans would try and boycott the notes but many would have to use them because they can't be avoided, she added.
Elisa Allen, the director of PETA UK, said millions of cows are killed every year for beef and tallow, and the "cruel and violent industry" is one of the world's largest producers of greenhouse-gas emissions.
"Of course, it's worth remembering that the best way to help animals is not to avoid this fatty fiver — but rather to vote with our wallets and not give our cash to industries which harm animals and the environment," she said in a statement.
The Bank of England did not say what animals the tallow came from. Most tallow comes from cattle and sheep. Some Hindu leaders said they would discuss whether to ban the notes from temples in Britain, the BBC reported. Hindus consider cows to be sacred.
When the notes were introduced, the bank said advantages included that they are better for the environment because they last longer and can be recycled, and are stronger than paper notes.
They can also be wiped clean and can reportedly even survive a cycle in the washing machine.
The old paper £5 will cease to be legal tender in May 2017.