Like many vegetarians and vegans, I was dismayed to find out that the new £5 note contains tallow - a waste product derived from animal fat. I'm told that tallow is a by-product of animal slaughter, rather than a driver. So we can at least be reassured that there aren't Bank of England funded slaughter houses out there. But as someone who goes to great lengths to avoid consuming dead animals, it's a bit irritating to find out I have been using them to pay for my daily falafels.
On hearing the revelation I reacted in the usual ways. I searched for the inevitable petition, signed it and shared it. I tweeted to the self-validating echo chamber that is my twitter following. Naturally, I attacked the trolls who were insensitively (if slightly amusingly) telling distraught vegetarians "they shouldn't be eating £5 notes anyway". I reflected on how the whole thing underlined the way animals are exploited for human greed.
Longer term, my thoughts raced ahead to my weekly shop. Should I pursue 'restaurant tactics', and ask for the 'vegetarian option' at the check-out, I wondered? Maybe not. Asking my Morrisons cashier if the bank notes have been prepared in vegetable fat is unlikely to end well. And I'm not convinced it would be easily communicated in my local corner shop - it recently took me and Google Translate five minutes to explain what quinoa is (they didn't have any).
I could perhaps ask for my change in 'fat-free coins'. This act of defiance would remain loyal to my principles, but I am doubtful whether the crusade would spread to the upper echelons of the Royal Mint. If the cashier in Morrisons mentions it at all, it will likely only go as far as the canteen, no doubt supported by choice words such as 'knob head'. I decided that at the very least I would avoid using cash and pay by card as much as possible. But that still leaves 'Whites' the dry cleaners (who is cash only) and the 'Russian Roulette' of the ATM.
So what to do? Well, rather than terrorising the shopkeepers of Brentford High Street, I accepted that I would inevitably receive the odd tallow-infested fiver. But, when I do, I will donate the value to the Vegetarian Society. (At least, for the next month anyway).
As a member of the Vegetarian Society for 2 years I have been continually impressed by their advocacy and support at all stages of the vegetarian journey. They are always fighting the vegetarian's corner, ensuring products are correctly labelled and that restaurants are doing all they can to meet our needs. Donating £5 may help them convince the nice people in the Royal Mint to change their ingredients. They'll certainly be more effective than the cashier in Morrisons anyway.
To my loved ones worrying that this will impoverish me and affect the quality of their Christmas presents. Worry not, I don't expect to come across more than a few fivers - the card strategy will still be in the place, and I only use the dry cleaner twice a month.
To the meat-fanatics desperate to point out that this is akin to donating the Vegetarian Society a leg of lamb. It's not - but I'm sure we'll discuss this at length in the comments. See you there.
To those who think this is a great idea and want to join in. You can donate to the Vegetarian Society here. I've just returned from the dry cleaners, so there's £5 in there already. Reference is 'Fat Free Fivers'. Feel free to add to it!