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The £5 Note That Keeps On Giving

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If you were thinking the £5 note situation couldn’t get any more ridiculous, you would be wrong. When I wrote my first article on this last week the petition to remove tallow from bank notes was just short of 20,000 signatures – it’s now over 130,000. Not only that, there is is now a vegan takeaway bar in Brixton refusing to take the new £5 notes because they wish to “stay true” to the “cause.”

The levels of absurdity here should be transparently obvious. Along those lines of reasoning, they should be turning people away at the door for carrying any sort of plastic. In fact, they should probably knock the whole place down given that the materials used to build the takeaway bar will most certainly contain animal products.

This sort of behaviour serves absolutely no purpose. All it’s doing – like all single issue campaigns – is diverting the public’s attention away from the real issue – the immorality of animal use. The folks at the Brixton “Vegbar” are not only singling out a form of animal use no different to any other that occurs as a result of living in a non-vegan world, they’re portraying veganism as a position with a spectrum. They claim to be level 7 vegans (with the use of a Simpsons meme), the implication being that in order to be serious about veganism you need to reject the £5 notes, but that there are somehow lesser “levels” of veganism too.

The added irony with the £5 note situation is that tallow is a slaughterhouse byproduct, in no way different to the byproducts used in roads, houses, plastics, etc. You don’t stop the use of slaughterhouse byproducts by forming coalitions of vegans and non-vegans to sign “petitions” against a product or “boycott” a product that is only in existence in the first place because of a non-vegans demand for animal products. These products will exist and be used, whether in £5 notes or whatever else, so long as we live in a non-vegan world where these byproducts are cheap and readily available. So we now have a situation where non-vegans are campaigning against tallow (a *vegetarian* cafe in Cambridge, for example – and thousands signing petitions), who are directly responsible for the existence of tallow in the first place through demanding animal products.

Vegans signing the petition, promoting the “boycott,” or otherwise supporting the campaign fail to realise that the campaign/petition/boycott itself is assuming the legitimacy of the exploitation that results in tallow being produced in the first place. It’s telling non-vegans that there’s a problem with tallow, but the exploitation you partake in that results in tallow, is just fine.

The only way to use the £5 note situation productively, is by informing those upset by it that there’s no difference between this use of animal products and the exploitation of animals we engage in through non-veganism.

Tallow – whether or not it’s in £5 notes – will exist in the same quantities, and merely appear in other products. This mindless focus on its presence in £5 notes is doing nothing but placating the self-indulgent nature of many so called “animal advocates.” The animals are dying in the hundreds of billions every year. Tallow existed in quantities that most likely dwarfed Niagara Falls and the surrounding bodies of water, long before these £5 notes were even in existence. Like roads, cars, buses, and almost every bit of plastic on the planet, we’re not escaping the tsunami of slaughterhouse byproducts until we’ve cut the supply. We do that by tackling the root cause, and not by trying to make ourselves feel better through diverting one of the tallow-rivers many tributaries away from our house and shutting the door. Be vegan, educate others to be vegan, and stop drawing arbitrary lines between different forms of animal exploitation. It’s only the animals that lose.


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  • Yes! It’s so refreshing to hear other vegans saying this. The ironic thing is that a vegetarian cafe is refusing tallow-tainted bills while serving their customers milk and eggs. I can tell you which of those things are profit centres for animal agriculture – it’s not the money. Oh, and of course credit cards and pretty much every other product manufactured in the WORLD uses tallow as a slip agent (to keep them from sticking to machinery in the manufacturing process).

    Of course, the only reason manufacturers use tallow is that it is orders of magnitude cheaper than all other oils, because we slaughter animals by the BILLIONS. I’d really love to see more vegans addressing meat, dairy, eggs, leather and wool. That’s where the money is made. Quite honestly, rendering plants are recycling facilities that prevent us from literally drowning in the carcasses of slaughtered sentient beings (no joke: by the rendering industries estimates, all of the earth’s landfills would overflow in four years without rendering plants). Maybe it’s the profit centres we should be focusing on, not the “icky” recycled products like tallow that are in everything from biodiesel to soap to asphalt.

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