Is your money made from animal fat?

Vegetarians and vegans were unhappy to discover that the Bank of England's new polymer five-pound note contains tallow, a substance derived from animal fat.

Frank Augstein/AP/File
A Bank of England employee shows the new five-pound note at the Bank of England Museum in London.

Vegans and vegetarians in England may be able to avoid personal consumption of animal products, but it will be harder for them to refrain from using the nation's new polymer five-pound bank note. It was recently confirmed that the new currency contains animal fat.

More than 100,000 concerned citizens have signed a petition on calling for the Bank of England to remove tallow, a substance containing animal fat, from the new five-pound bank note.

"The new £5 notes contain animal fat in the form of tallow. This is unacceptable to millions of vegans, vegetarians, Hindus, Sikhs, Jains and others in the U.K.," wrote Doug Maw who started the petition. "We demand that you cease to use animal products in the production of currency that we have to use."

A global shift from paper to plastic notes, however, is already in motion. The Bank of England, for example, plans to circulate polymer 10- and 20- pound notes by 2017 and 2020. Polymer money is used in 24 countries, including Canada and Australia, which both confirmed to CNNMoney that their bills also contain animal fat.

"They [the suppliers] are looking to eliminate that, but obviously that will take time," said Patricia Potts, spokeswoman for Innovia Firms, the company that supplies the polymer plastic used in currency. She said that the firm would never "knowingly add any animal ingredients into our products."

The issue originally drew attention when the Bank of England responded to a tweet from a user asking to confirm the presence of tallow in the bank note.

"I understand old notes contain stuff as well – we can't do anything about what is in circulation – but the fact they are producing new ones is what really riles me," Mr. Maw told Sky News.

As the bank explains on its website introducing "The New Fiver," polymer notes are cleaner and have more security features that make them tough to counterfeit. They are also 2.5 times stronger than the current paper notes, thus saving energy and resources required to replace notes. As many as 21,835 paper notes had to be replaced in 2015 because of wear and tear.

Central banks in other countries ranging from Canada to Mexico to Malaysia also use polymer banknotes for similar reasons.

The New Fiver features former Prime Minister Winston Churchill on the back of the note. The new 10-pound note, bound for circulation in the summer of 2017, will feature author Jane Austen, while the 20-pound note will have the English Romanticist landscape painter J.M.W. Turner on its back. Paper five-pound notes will cease to be accepted by May 5, 2017.

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