Blood Money: Straight Talk About Tallow in UK Currency

Over the past week, tremendous furor has broken out over the UK’s new currency, which contains a small percentage of tallow (beef fat). 23 other countries use the polymer notes, including Australia and Canada.

Innovia Films, which manufacturers the film used to produce the bills, has confirmed the cash contains animal fat. The news has caused outrage in the UK, where at least one vegetarian business has actually refused to accept the new notes.

“Slip Agents” Contain Tallow

So what is tallow doing in our currency?

During the manufacturing process, “slip agents” are necessary to prevent plastic from sticking to the equipment. It also reduces static clean later. Stearamide is a common slip agent, is especially effective when a transparent effect is desired, as in the new currency. Stearamide is made with a combination of ethylenediamine and stearic acid.

Stearic acid can be derived from plant-based sources, like shea butter and cocoa butter. But it’s found in much higher levels in animal fats. And recycled animal fat is vastly more affordable. In fact, so much stearic acid is used in manufacturing today, it’s doubtful plant-based sources could meet the demand.

Supply and Demand

As I pointed out in my article and video on rendering plants, between 30-50% (by carcass weight) of food animals never end up on dinner plates. Instead they’re sold as leather, glue, pet and animal foods, gelatin, glycerine,animal fats and other byproducts.

Because of the sheer quantity of animal fat produced by rendering plants, it is one of the most plentiful resources on the planet. Animal fats cost less than 10 cents a pound. The lowest price I could find on industrial Shea butter, on the other hand, was $5.00/lb (from Alibaba), or 5,000 times the cost. And even relatively cheap Canola oil, when purchased by the ton, is $0.40 cents a pound, making it 300% more expensive than animal fats.

Complete Avoidance is Impossible

A sampling of other products made from tallow or stearic acid:

Crayons, waxed paper, rubber, candles, hairspray, deodorant, cosmetics, pharmaceutical products. Animal-based slip agents are used for other common plastics like cellophane as well.

And bad news for the businesses seeking to avoid tallow by banning cash: credit card manufacture also requires slip agents, and they likely use animal products as well.

Most Biofuel contains animal fat. You bought textile seating for your car? Bad news: the tires contain animal fat. So does the brake fluid and antifreeze. And the entire thing is glued together with an animal-derived glue.

Oh, and that fireworks display you saw? All fireworks contain glycerin derived from animal fat. And if you want to become even more overwhelmed, read “The Many Uses of Cow-Beef Byproducts” to feel truly awful. As the article points out, an 1150 pound steer only produces 500 pounds of beef. The rest is byproduct.

There is a very, very important reason that the vegan society’s original definition of veganism included avoiding animal products as far as “practicable and possible.”

Because complete avoidance is IMPOSSIBLE and IMPRACTICAL.

The Good News

So I realize by now you’re probably thinking veganism is useless and there’s no point in avoiding animal products. Wrong. We can still do a lot.

For one thing, I want you to remember that glycerin and other animal fat derived byproducts are the LEAST PROFITABLE aspects of raising animals. The sheer supply is so vast that they are not even close to being profit centres for animal agriculture.

If you want to end the suffering and abuse of animals, you can, but make your top priority eliminating the source of the problem: high profit animal foods, leather and wool.

Those products account for the lion’s share of the profits of animal exploitation. Remember that every time you choose to avoid eating an animal product, you are actually doing far more. The average north American eats nearly 300 pounds of meat per year. But remember that we don’t eat between 30-50% of that animal. You are actually removing 400-600 pounds of animal products from the system. For every pound of meat you aren’t eating, think about the fat, bone and other byproducts that you are taking out of the profit centres (or don’t, if it makes you slightly nauseous. I get it).

What You Can Do

The best – and realistically, the only measurable – way of addressing tallow in currency and other animal byproducts, is by destroying their profitability through avoidance of meat, dairy, eggs, leather and wool.

I avoid animal products when buying products for home and personal use. But we need to have some reasoning behind our boycotts. You don’t boycott worthless products, you hit the industry you want to eliminate WHERE IT HURTS. And animal fat is most definitely not the place.

Avoiding animal byproducts in cosmetics, etc. is kind of like eating organic food: it’s nice, but it’s not a solution on its own, and it shouldn’t be your number one priority.

What do you think? Join the conversation!

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