The newest bank notes that the Bank of England initiated into circulation in September of 2016 have run into a controversy, although perhaps of a different kind than people may have expected. In fact, arguments over the designs and coloration of notes have taken a back seat to the question of the products used to make the note, and specifically the use of animal tallow. Tallow, a rendered fat derived from mutton or beef, exists in trace amounts in the new notes, and protesters have focused efforts on petitioning the Bank of England to eliminate the product from the currency printing process. Now, in a response, the Bank of England has determined that it will not alter its printing methods.

Trace Amounts of Tallow

In terms of the actual quantity of tallow involved in any single bank note, the figures are minimal. According to a report by Quartz, the chemical definition of "trace" in this context means that tallow is present in a concentration no more than 100 parts per million, or about 001% of the total products in the note. The new plastic notes that the Bank of England has printed are all likely to contain a trace amount. On an individual level, this amounts to not much animal product, but what happens when the circulation is complete and there are approximately 1.1 billion plastic notes in circulation? In its report, Quartz calculates that the total amount of tallow needed to prepare the bank notes in circulation to date could be derived from the slaughtering of two cows. While this pales in comparison to the 2.6 million cows slaughtered in the U.K. each year for food, it nonetheless has not appeased many who protest on religious or personal grounds.

Bank Decides to Maintain Printing Process

The Bank of England responded to the petitions requesting a change of printing process, which had received more than 130,000 signatures. First, the Bank underwent an investigation to determine possible alternative methods to creating the new plastic bills, preferably ones that would not require the use of animal tallow. Unfortunately for protesters, though, the investigation led the Bank to determine that it would not change its printing process. Among the arguments for maintaining the process as it stands are considerations such as the complexity of multiple stages of printing a secure and high quality note, the timeframe for reintroducing the new currency, and a potential shortage of currency caused by an early cessation of production.

The five-pound note is currently in circulation and has been since September of 2016, and a ten-pound denomination will be set to enter circulation in September of this year.