A vegetarian cafe in Cambridge is believed to have become the first business to refuse to accept the new £5 note following revelations the currency contains animal products.
There has been widespread outrage among vegans, vegetarians and faith groups this week after it emerged that the note contains tallow, a rendered form of beef or mutton fat, sometimes used in the production of items including soap and candles.
A petition to the Bank of England to remove tallow from the notes had by Saturday gathered more than 126,000 signatures.
Rainbow Vegetarian Cafe has put up signs warnings customers about the policy which its owner has said is because the business had made a “promise” that the cafe was an “ethical establishment”.
Sharon Meijland explained to the BBC: “[Tallow’s] an animal product isn’t it? Our whole business is based around not having anything like that on the premises.
“Although the same person doesn’t handle the money that handles the food, that’s not really the point.”
She told the broadcaster that she was “mystified” by the Bank Of England’s decision to include the “repulsive” substance in the currency.
Meijland said the cafe had stopped accepting the £5 note on Wednesday and since then no customers had complained, although most paid by card, she added.
However, Meijland has also since spoken out about the “hatred” being expressed online over her decision.
She said: “Our own customers who are actually in the restaurant in Cambridge have been very favourable, but it is people on Facebook - there’s been a good deal of charming comments such as ‘I hope this comes back to bite you in the ass’”.
The 66-year-old said she believes some people are reacting in such a way “because I made a stand” and said she had been wrongly accused of seeking publicity for the cafe.
After signing the petition Meijland said she spoke with staff and they decided they could not justify handling the notes.
She said: “We all said we all felt very uneasy about handling it (the note). We thought the only way round this is to just not accept them.”
Vowing to stick with the decision she added: “I am shocked and frightened at my age to get such hatred (online).”
Doug Maw, who started a petition against use of the note, said he was “disgusted” a more suitable alternative had not been sourced.
The 47-year-old hotel worker from Keswick in Cumbria said it is “unacceptable to millions of vegans, vegetarians, Hindus, Sikhs, Jains and others in the UK”.
The Bank of England has not commented on whether there is a legal obligation for businesses to accept the notes but has said its supplier is “working intensively” to find a possible solution to the issue.
It added earlier this week that concerns over the note had “only just come to light”.
On Friday the Australian inventor of the polymer used on the new note branded the outrage over it containing animal fat “absolutely stupid”.
Professor David Solomon, who led a team which pioneered the technology which has seen polymer notes rolled out in a number of countries around the world, explained to Australian radio station 2GB: “When they make the polymer they start out with pellets and I think it’s a coating on the pellets that comes in. The pellet is mainly polypropylene which is the main material they use, and then it’s made into a film and they stick two films together to get the thickness they want.
“So if there was any tallow in there at all, it’s buried in there. There’ll be trivial amounts of it in there.”