×

Bank of England decides to keep using animal products for banknotes

  • The Bank of England (BOE) has decided to keep using polymer, an ingredient containing beef for its banknotes.
  • The bank faced a backlash over the introduction of the initial £5 polymer note in November.
  • Polymer will be used in the printing of the new £20 and £10 notes, and will still be used for the printing of future runs of the £5 banknote.
The new polymer £5 note featuring Sir Winston Churchill
Joe Giddens/WPA Pool | Getty Images News | Getty Images
The new polymer £5 note featuring Sir Winston Churchill

The Bank of England (BOE) has decided to keep using polymer, an ingredient containing beef, for its banknotes despite a backdrop of animal rights activists angered by the move.

The U.K.'s central bank said on Thursday that it would continue using the substance in future print runs, and that the only other viable options to printing polymer notes was to use chemicals derived from palm oil.

Concerns were raised over the latter option as palm oil has been linked to serious environmental issues surrounding deforestation, climate change and the survival of endangered species.

The BOE's decision followed a lengthy consultation involving 3,544 people. Of those who expressed their thoughts, 3,010 (88%) were against the use of animal-derived additives and 1,472 (48%) were against the use of palm oil derivatives.

Just under a third of respondents (31%) expressed preference against the use of both animal and palm oil derivatives.

Bank of England governor Mark Carney poses with a new polymer five pound note on September 13, 2016 in London
Stefan Wermuth/WPA Pool | Getty Images News | Getty Images
Bank of England governor Mark Carney poses with a new polymer five pound note on September 13, 2016 in London

"The Bank fully recognizes the concerns raised by members of the public, both prior to and during the consultation, and has not taken this decision lightly," the BOE said in a statement on Thursday.

"The Bank also understands that the decision it has reached may not address the concerns of all parties, but in making this decision, the Bank has considered very carefully the relevant factors and taken into consideration all of its objectives, including its responsibility to maintain confidence in the currency through the issuance of high quality, secure bank notes and achieve value for money for taxpayers."

Polymer will be used in the printing of the new £20 and £10 notes, and will still be used for the printing of future runs of the £5 banknote.

Earlier this year, the bank said it planned to keep the polymer-based £5 note. The introduction of the controversial note led to protests by vegan-led animal rights activists last November, which consequently prompted the institution to launch an investigation into better substitutes for the ingredient.

PETA advocates banknote boycott

Animal rights group PETA U.K. swiftly condemned the decision by the central bank to continue using polymer, and advocated a boycott of the banknotes by consumers.

"There's no need for tallow, and the Bank of England has failed to balance the books by investing in a non-animal bank note component that would please everyone," Elisa Allen, director of PETA, told CNBC via email.

"While the use of tallow is not the most shocking case of cruelty to animals, it is a direct subsidy for abattoirs for which there's no justification. Our society is rapidly moving away from the destruction and violence of animal agriculture – one of the most significant contributors to climate change and a practice that causes billions of gentle, intelligent animals to suffer greatly every year."

She added: "PETA suggests that while the public may not be able to avoid these nasty notes, they can take a stand for animals and the environment by not purchasing meat or dairy foods with their cash."

The banknotes contain a trace amount of additives derived from animal products – typically less than 0.05 percent.