Usually business owners have few qualms about accepting cold, hard cash, but The Guardian reports that a vegetarian restaurant in Cambridge, England, is turning away £5 notes. Sharon Meijland, owner of the Rainbow Cafe, says she’s not accepting those particular bills for a simple reason — the currency isn’t vegetarian.
In September, the Bank of England released its new £5 notes into circulation. The money, printed on a special plastic polymer, was touted for being cleaner, more durable, and more difficult to counterfeit. But vegetarians, vegans, and some religious groups have taken issue with the new bills after the bank confirmed that trace amounts of animal fat are used in the production of the polymer.
@SteffiRox there is a trace of tallow in the polymer pellets used in the base substrate of the polymer £5 notes— Bank of England (@bankofengland) November 28, 2016
The BBC reports that a petition calling for a ban of the notes featuring Winston Churchill’s face has received more than 100,000 signatures and members of the UK’s Sikh and Hindu communities who abstain from meat for religious reasons have called the currency “extremely offensive.” Even “Meat is Murder” singer Morrissey chimed in on the matter, writing on a fan site:
If it had been revealed by the Bank of England that the new British Five Pound note contained slices of cat or dog, the country would be in an uproar. But because we have been trained to accept the vicious slaughter of cows, sheep and pigs, the UK media can only make light of the use of tallow in the new British fiver because animal slaughter is thought to be outside of the human grasp and concern.
For his part, the inventor of the polymer bank note has called the controversy “absolutely stupid,” telling Australian radio station 2GB, “There’s trivial amounts of [tallow] in there.” However, the Bank of England say it’s treating the problem with the “utmost seriousness.” In a statement the bank adds, that the £5 note maker “Innovia is now working intensively with its supply chain and will keep the Bank informed on progress towards potential solutions.”
Vegetarians and vegans are known to use petitions and protests to demand changes to menus and production practices. In April 2016, LA-based vegan restaurant Cafe Gratitude began getting bombarded with threats after an old blog post about the owners’ decisions to raise and slaughter animals on their private farm began circulating online. Irish beer company Guinness was empowered to go vegan last year after customers petitioned the 258-year-old company to change its practices. Vegetarians have also attempted (unsuccessfully so far) to lobby In-N-Out to start offering veggie burgers.