Your views on the 'non-vegetarian' £5 note: for, against and undecided

20 December 2016

We asked readers to write in with their views on the use of tallow in the new polymer £5 note, which we have since discovered is a finalist to the "World banknote of the year" competition.

The honour is awarded every year by the International Bank Note Society.

To be eligible, a banknote must have been issued for the first time during the year of the award, and be in general circulation. It is assessed for its “artistic merit and/or innovative security features”, including use of colour, contrast and balance.

However, vegetarians, vegans and some religious groups were offended by the Bank of England admission that its first polymer note contains animal fat. And a petition to remove tallow from the bank notes has been signed by more than 130,000 consumers.

Meanwhile, Professor David Solomon. the inventor of the new fiver, has called vegetarians ‘stupid’ for objecting to the use of tallow.

The Moneywise team was divided on the issue. And when we asked Moneywise readers to write in with their views, some had some strong opinions.

Many were against the use of tallow:

John Bateman says: “The recent large increase in Vegan nos. is due to people’s concerns over food, health, animals and the environment.

“It is insensitive to single out these responsibly thinking and caring people for their opposition to the material used in the new £5 notes.

“Surely, we can supply bank notes that are free of slaughterhouse product?”

Sandy Craig says: “I am one of those ‘stupid’ people who object to the use of tallow in the production of the £5 note. I also object to being called "stupid" by someone who has clearly demonstrated in his response to the concerns raised that he is not only arrogant but also ignorant. The fact that there is only a small amount of tallow in the new note is not the point! Using it at all will require the death of animals to produce it and further encourage the use of animals in myriads of ways that are unjustifiable, and, to a very large percentage of the human race, offensive. It's like telling a muslim that there's not that much pork in a sausage so that's OK and the pig would have died anyway!”

S Cooksey says:  “With this subject I feel all people’s opinions should be considered. I am not a vegetarian but totally understand why they are upset by the use of animal fat in the new notes, also the thought of it makes me cringe as I don't understand why it is necessary in the first place.
“It has put me off accepting the notes and I know it has done the same for a lot of other people.”

Sofia Genders says:  “I think it's unethical to have used animal fat in the new fiver. Partly because it doesn't give people a choice and partly because rearing animals is one of the most labour intensive things one can do for planet earth - not very good for the environment.

“However, (while still being ethical) maybe there was no other alternative that wasn't even more harmful to the planet and our environment - although I wish they'd been open about this from the start, maybe even allowing the general public to take a vote.”

Others were supportive of the £5 note inventor’s comments:

Tim Boyd says: “I totally agree with Prof. David Solomon – the fact that 120,000 people want to ban the new £5 note proves that there are 120,000 idiots in the country! There are far more important issues to worry about.”

G Townsend says: “Reference comments over the new five pound note, what are these people trying to do with them? Put them to their mouths and risk nasty germs off dirty hands? Are they just plain stupid because they do come across as that.”

Roger Marples says: “The people who are complaining about the new £5 note are being childish and deliberately wanting to cause a hiatus. 

“They should be told that they are correct in their assumption of animal fat being used in the manufacturing process but this substance is used in many other daily use items which they handle with no concern.  They are just publicity seekers who have used the system to generate publicity for their eating habits.  Generally the vegans that I know are nonplussed about the issue stating that there is such a minuscule amount of animal fat involved that it would be very hard to determine that this has an effect on their lifestyle.

“How long before we tell them to grow up and place their concerns in a grown up manner and factual manner/presentation before the Bank authorities and to identify the benefits and disadvantages logicially and dispassionately.  I doubt that they can.”

Sharon Horth says:”There are far more serious issues and we use tallow for many other things. To me it can't be far off the argument for not using leather shoes and handbags.  It's pandering to a neurotic minority. As long as we're not killing animals to make £5 notes I don't see the problem.”

Sue Clark says: “My view is that we should not be ruled by a minority. The bank should not change the composition of the notes which has been carefully thought out.

“If we bow to this what will come next? Will we be unable to buy leather products or even candles? 

“These people are entitled to their views but where they adversely affect the majority they must respect that.”

Some readers also raised some good questions:

Fiona Stewart says: “How many of your 'divided team' wear leather shoes? How does a vegan/vegetarian refuse £5 if there's a possibility that it came from the till of a butcher?”

Peta Pearn says: “Were those complaining planning to eat them?”

Elizabeth Braiden says: “I have three questions/points:

1.       Is tallow a ‘waste product’ of meat consumption, and would otherwise be discarded? (ie no cattle are bred and then slaughtered specifically for tallow)

2.       How many of the 120,000 signatures wear leather shoes/belts etc.?

3.       What would be the alternative? If the answer is palm oil, then what about the orang utang? What about the widespread destruction of habitat? What about the burning to clear land, which adds to global warming?

“I have some sympathy for Hindus in this matter, but none for any signature who answers point 2 in the affirmative.

“Let’s just calm down and take a considered view – rather than making knee jerk reactions.”

Chris JTM says: “I believe this story is ridiculous. For example, unless the note is brand new, how can you know there are no traces of meat on it anyway. How many people will handle it during its lifespan?”

Elizabeth Blake says: “The new £5 note fuss is a storm in a teacup! Who knows what will be on them or the old ones once they have been in circulation?  By the bye I don't eat meat.”


Others wanted to put the issue into perspective:

Josephine Gilbert says: “There are lots of things in life that don't suit me, or that I don't agree with, but tough luck.  There are so many more important things happening on this planet.”

Peter Kay says: “I think people need to focus on the things happening in the world today and not if £5 notes contain animal fat. We have a very ‘nice’ life in the U.K., look at the suffering in Syria, they aren't worrying about such trivial things?”

However, some said they simply don’t like the note:

Nita Luce says: “I do not like this ‘plastic’ note. It is difficult to fold and slip into a purse and once folded firmly to do this, it is then crinkly and a job to feed into a machine. I get rid of them as fast as I can. I much prefer the old notes.”

A final thought:

Ramelda Brand says: “For me, there are two lessons here: One, Life is way more complex than you think. Two, don’t call people stupid if you want to win them over!”