For Those Upset By The New £5 Notes
It was brought to my attention today that there are trace amounts of animal fat (tallow) in the new £5 notes that are steadily being filtered into our currency here in the UK. In a bizarre coalition of sorts, both vegans, and a whole array of non-vegans alike (vegetarians, Hindus, Sikhs, Jains, etc), are upset by this development, so much so that at the time of writing this piece, a petition created on change.org by a chap named Doug Maw is almost at 20,000 signatures.
Is the use of tallow in the new £5 notes morally problematic? Of course it is. But there are two problems with these subsequent developments that require our attention. The first is that, taking an issue like this and shaping it into an advocacy effort is detrimental to the pursuit of a societal recognition of fundamental animal rights. Consider the change.org petition, for example. Not only is it telling people that all they have to do to help animals is fill out a digital form, it’s saying that there is something worse about this particular form of animal use. So much so that vegans are willing to garner the support of non-vegans (who engage in direct animal exploitation every day) in an effort to supposedly combat a form of animal use that, for whatever reason, is being portrayed as different to the animal use that every non-vegan engages in. Let me tell you folks, it ain’t any different. Yet this petition, this outcry on twitter from vegans (and non-vegan “animal people” alike), is telling every non-vegan to ignore the direct exploitation they engage in every day, and to just be upset about these £5 notes instead. It’s doing nothing but drawing arbitrary lines between certain animal uses, and as always, the animals pay the price via not having their fundamental interests recognised through veganism.
The second problem is that, it makes no sense for people to be upset about this, whilst not getting upset about every other animal byproduct that each of us has no choice but to come into contact with every day. Computers, phones, tablets, pavements, roads, cars, almost every bit of plastic in our household goods; all of it has trace amounts of animal products in. Why? Because we live in a society where slaughterhouse byproducts are cheap and readily available. Why? Because we demand animal products to be produced when we are not vegan. We do not change this by petitioning £5 notes. We do not change this by skipping over every road and hiding in our neighbours trees. We change this by educating people to go vegan, which then reduces the demand for animal products. If the 20 odd thousand people who have signed that petition were actually all vegan, took animal interests seriously, and instead used their energy to engage in creative abolitionist education, we would be well on the road to recognising fundamental animal interests now.
As it stands, we’re merely telling the non-vegan public that one form of animal use is worse than another, whilst simultaneously patting non-vegans on the back for signing a petition against a form of animal use that is no different to what they already engage in themselves. Vegans getting upset about this issue and signing this petition neglect to understand that it’s these sorts of petitions that lead people to make distinctions over certain animal uses in the first place. Only by decreasing the demand for animal products through veganism and educating others to be vegan will these other animal uses (money, roads, plastics. etc.) of which we have no control, become obsolete and change all by themselves anyway.
Photo from The Guardian