Bank of England to keep £5 note containing animal fat

Read Time:   |  16th February 2017

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Despite a petition urging the Bank to stop using the substance in its banknotes attracting nearly 135,000 signatures, the Bank of England claims the impact of withdrawing the new £5 polymer notes, including £10 notes due out in September, outweighs animal fat concerns.

Photo: Getty

The Bank of England has decided not to withdraw plastic £5 banknotes from circulation, despite protests from vegans, animal rights activists and religious groups because the notes contain traces of animal fat.

The Bank is also pushing ahead with production of the new £10 polymer note featuring Jane Austen, which is to be issued in September. It has spent £70m on making the two plastic banknotes so far.

It said: “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 would carry environmental risks and impose significant financial costs on the Bank, and thereby the taxpayer, and on the cash industry.”

A row broke out about the new plastic £5 banknotes last November, after it emerged that they contained tallow, an animal byproduct of beef or mutton fat. A petition urging the Bank to stop using the substance in its banknotes attracted nearly 135,000 signatures. It said the use of animal fat was “unacceptable to millions of vegans, vegetarians, Hindus, Sikhs, Jains and others in the UK”.

The Bank said it had carefully considered other options, such as destroying, reprinting and delaying the issue of the £10 note, but concluded it would be too costly. It is looking at switching to an alternative substance, such as palm oil or coconut oil, for the planned £20 polymer note and the next batch of £5 notes, but the switch would come too late for the new plastic tenner.

Photo: Rex/Bank of England

The Bank said it had already printed 275m £10 notes, at a cost of £24m, in preparation for their launch in the autumn (it plans to print 1.2bn notes in total ). It has also spent £46m printing the 440m plastic £5 notes. Reprinting these notes would mean incurring these costs again, and there would be a further £50,000 cost for the secure destruction of the existing stock.

“After careful consideration the Bank has concluded that the severity of the combined impact of the factors outlined outweigh potential harm caused.” 

The Bank said it had not known tallow would be used to make the £5 and £10 notes when it signed the contract with Innovia. It has postponed signing a contract for the production of the plastic £20 note, which is to be issued by 2020, and has spoken to Innovia and other polymer suppliers about making it with a plant-based alternative. Suppliers have said it should not affect the quality of the banknotes, though this would still need be tested in production trials in coming months.

However there is some promising news as The Vegan Society said it was “unfortunate that the new £10 note will contain tallow”, but added: “We have met with the Bank of England and believe they are committed to solving this problem and we will continue to work with them to find a good solution.

“We look forward to the consultation around the £20 note and hope that any future bank notes will be free from ingredients produced through harming animals. We hope that other companies will follow this positive example and review the use of animals in their products.”

Source: The Guardian

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