A few months ago, Indians and South Asians in Britain, ?especially vegetarian Hindus and Jains, ?were irked by news that the new currency note – the ?5 polymer note – introduced in England contained tallow. Tallow is a rendered form of beef or mutton fat, processed from suet, and is used in candles and soaps.
After the news broke out, Vegetarian Hindus and Vegans in general took offense and took up digital campaigns. ?A?petition demanding the replacement of the notes with a vegan alternative generated over 130,000 signatures. (change.org). The?government and Bank of England began looking into the issue and acknowledged via Twitter that?”There is a trace of tallow in the polymer pellets used in the base substrate of the polymer ?5 notes”?
So, why is this a big deal for Hindus and Vegetarians?
The National Council of Hindu Temples, summarized the feelings of Desi community in a statement (link):
The oldest of the worlds’ great religious traditions, Hinduism is the only one that worships the Divine equally in both the masculine and feminine. Our agrarian forefathers offered the bull as a symbol of divine righteousness (the male principle), while the cow is a symbol of divine nurturing (the feminine principle). We now, centuries later, still embrace these symbols and hold them close to our hearts to remind us of the path laid out for us by these complementary forces. To handle something from a slaughtered cow would be to insult the Divine Mother, the principle of nurturing and the loving provision of nature. No aware Hindu will willingly or voluntarily do it.
All British Hindus stand at the crossroads of Shreyas and Preyas, and with every donation at a temple, or every aashirwaad given to a new married couple, or every blessing conveyed by a gift of money given to a grandchild, the choice will have to be made again and again. The next time that PM Theresa May, or other Parliamentarians, visit a Hindu temple they too will have to make this choice before contemplating making a symbolic donation, and since great importance is placed upon Indo British Trade in a post Brexit Britain, payments made in a morally, religiously and ethically tainted currency may well acquire a totally different “bhavana” sentiment.
History of Tallow and Hindus
There is a long history of Hindus and Muslims being provoked and angered by the use of animal byproducts, which the modern British leader seem to have forgotten; or wish to ignore. The key reason for ?Indian Rebellion of 1857,? a.k.a the mutiny by sepoys (soldiers) of the East India Company’s army on 10 May 1857 was the use of Tallow and lard-greased cartridges. (link)
The British, probably assumed that the values and mores of Indians, especially those of Indian immigrants in the UK changed considerably in the decades since.
The other side of the Tallow note
The British Government and Bank of England began to downplay the issue and used digerati to communicate the fact that there was less than 0.00007g of Tallow per ?5 note. In effect, all the banknotes in circulation combined would have less than 23kgs, half the tallow output of an average cow! ?Some also argued that currency notes were an outdated concept in a digital age and this shouldn?t be a big deal.
Now comes the news that the Bank of England has refused to yield to pressure from protest groups about its use of animal-derived products in bank notes, saying that it will not pull any of the existing ?5 notes from circulation and will print the ?10 notes as planned.
?The Bank was not aware of the presence of animal-derived products when it signed the contract with its supplier for the ?5 and ?10 banknote polymer,? the Bank said in a statement last week.
?When the Bank discovered the presence of these products, its first step was to alert the public and subsequently has been treating the concerns raised by members of the public with the utmost seriousness,? it added.
Activists were disappointed by the announcement from theBank of England. “The move has disappointed the sizable but vocal Asian minority in England ?The Bank keeping tallow, or beef fat, in the new fiver sends a message to vegans, as well as Hindus, Sikhs and Jains, that our values don?t matter? ?summarizes an article in Guardian
Vegan and Hindu groups have promised to keep the issue alive, so?this is probably not the last word on the topic.
- New ?5 note: Bank to keep note despite animal fat content – BBC
- The Bank Of England Won’t Change Its New Currency To Be Vegan-Friendly – ABC News
- Bank of England meets Hindu Council members over beef tallow in 5 pound note Bank of England meets Hindu Council members over beef tallow in 5 pound note – Financial Express
- Bank of England confirms it is keeping animal fat ?5 and ?10 pound notes – Independent
- Remove Tallow from bank notes – Change.org
- Why does the ?5 note debate matter? Because it?s state power v minorities – The Guardian
- Bank note campaigner invited to Parliament – ITV
- New ?5 note contains animal fat, Bank of England admits, sparking outrage among vegetarians – Independent