£5 Note Nonsense & The Vegan Society
You’ll remember, I’m sure, the debacle involving £5 notes during the tail end of 2016. You can find my original articles on this here and here. It seems the story has progressed even further down the rabbit hole since, and it’s with great annoyance that I find myself having to talk about it… again.
The petition that started it all was rejected by the Bank of England and subsequently, the new £10 notes arriving this September will also contain tallow. The bank is, however, toying with the possibility of using a plant based substitute for the new £20 notes, which will not be in circulation until 2020.
The Vegan Society – or as I like to call them, the You Don’t Have To Be Vegan Society – had this to say in response:
“While it is unfortunate that the new £10 note will contain tallow, The Vegan Society is pleased that the Bank of England has been transparent in their response to this important issue, and has taken the beliefs of the public into consideration.
“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.”
Along with the many other folks upset by this development, the Vegan Society are missing the point. The problem isn’t that tallow – a byproduct of animal slaughter – is used in currency, it’s that the system of exploitation that results in tallow exists in the first place. Focusing on this byproduct assumes the legitimacy of the underlying exploitation. There are many non-vegans who consider the use of tallow “unnecessary” but who consider their own exploitation of animals to be perfectly acceptable. The outrage over £5 notes does nothing but tell these people that there is something different about this form of animal use to the use that they themselves engage in.
The use of tallow in our currency is wrong. Just as the use of animal products in our roads, computers and automobiles is wrong. But you don’t change that by drawing arbitrary lines and forming campaigns that tell people that these products exist in some kind of vacuum. They exist because there is a demand for animal exploitation. Take tallow out of our currency and tallow would still exist in the exact same quantities. We have to get to grips with the fact that the use of animal byproducts will not cease until we have a sizeable population of vegans. At that point, demand will decrease to the point that slaughterhouse byproducts are not as cheap or readily available as they are now.
Until that point, anything less than promoting veganism merely ensures that the systems of exploitation resulting in these products continue on as ever. The people who are campaigning over £5 notes need to explain why there is a difference between this and any other unavoidable byproduct we encounter in our daily lives. There is literally something everywhere you look. It is as nonsensical as basing a campaign on tarmac. This hasn’t stopped Doug Maw, founder of the original tallow petition, being “quite angry” over the £10 note news. He claims that “they are forcing people who have religious and ethical objections to use something that’s against their religious beliefs and their ethical beliefs.” But the same could be said for credit cards and house bricks. This is nothing but yet another form of self-indulgence on the part of “advocates,” who are incapable of recognising the very real exploitation they promote through normalising all others.
Doug goes on to say this: “I’m most definitely as of now looking at legal advice and we will definitely be bringing a test case against them because I’m pretty sure we will win it.” Wonderful. A “victory” would not mean any decrease in demand. It would not mean that there is any less tallow being brought into the world. All it would mean is that people can feel better that an animal product is not being used “unnecessarily.” Well I’ve got news for you, Doug. Such a “victory” does literally nothing for animals. But what it does do is tell the public there there is something different about that form of animal use to their own. It makes them feel better about their own exploitation by implying that there is some necessity or compulsion involved.
People need to stop advocating for themselves and see the bigger picture here. A non-vegan world equals millions of tons of byproducts whether they’re used in our currency or not. A vegan world equals no byproducts in existence in the first place. Advocating for the end of byproducts in the former merely normalises the “legitimate” forms of exploitation that people consider to be acceptable.
Want to do right by animals? Be vegan and advocate veganism. Want to end animal byproducts? Advocate veganism. There is no other option that doesn’t throw animals under the bus.