Most of us probably don’t stop to think much about the content of the cash we spend when we spend it, and are rather thinking about the frappuccino or stash of bacon we’re actually buying. But in Britain, the issue of what bank notes are made of has been center stage as activists have spoken out against the use of animal fat in the making of British bills. Despite protestations, the Bank of England has decided it will continue to use animal fat, citing the expense of palm oil, a non-animal product alternative, as too expensive. Suffice it to say the critics are not pleased.
Currently, British bank notes are made of plastic, and printed using tallow, AKA the rendered fat of beef or mutton. Tasty! But animal rights groups and some religious organizations have argued that the use of animal products in the notes is cruel, or violates religious principles, according to the Guardian. A petition calling for the end of plastic polymer (which contains small amounts of tallow) stated that the use of animal fat is “unacceptable to millions of vegans, vegetarians, Hindus, Sikhs, Jains and others in the UK,” the Guardian reports.
Researching the notes and their production, the Bank found that polymer is used in various other common products, including credit and debit cards, cell phones, car parts, and cosmetics, according to the Guardian.
The Bank contends that the only other possible alternative to tallow is palm oil, which the Bank says is too expensive to be sustainable. And it’s not exactly as if palm oil would be a winning argument among at least vegans, who often oppose palm oil because the industry is notorious for deforestation, destroying orangutan habitats, a critically endangered species.
In essence, there’s no great alternative that the Bank sees as viable. Thus, the notes are sticking around for now. Whether or not opposing activists will let up on the issue remains to be seen.