Or from an “animal slaughter-derived polymer,” as one member of Parliament put it, to a vegetable version.
Only in Britain could the presence of a tiny amount of rendered beef fat in currency cause such a palaver.
The polymer note, then, in every respect, was better. All except one.
The ingredients include a “trace amount” of tallow. Officially, that equates to less than 100 parts per million, or less than 0.1%.
It might not sound like much, but it was enough to cause quite the stir.
Britain is, after all, a nation of animal lovers.
The reason is obvious: No other country needs pets more than the UK.
We are all terrible at receiving compliments or gifts, or coping with human interaction of any kind. What a blessed relief it is to deal with a Labrador, a breed that will never say, “Oh no, I couldn’t possibly,” when offered the last jam tart.
Should I bump into a countryman on a New York street, I will avoid eye contact and make only the vaguest of pleasantries before hurrying on my way. But I will pet his spaniel.
Even the rather conditional love of a Siamese cat is enough for a certain type of repressed man who spent the 1950s at boarding school.
Britain’s Royal Society for the prevention of Cruelty to Animals is the world’s oldest animal protection charity. It was set up in 1824, a full 60 years before the National Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Children (which doesn’t even get the regal sheen to its name).
Victorian literature is chock full of children being sent up chimneys, but I challenge you to find a single mention of a chimpanzee employed as a sweep in a Dickens novel.
If you doubt any of this, just trying wearing fur in London and gauge the reaction for yourself.
This is a nation that is animal crackers.
Slaughtering cows to oil high-street commerce seems to go against some deeply held principles.
Remember, this is a country that, long before Brexit, refused to go along with the euro. There may have been some economic arguments, but there was also too much symbolism tied up in the coins and tokens that bear the Queen’s head. Sluicing it all with tallow seems distasteful.
The problem with all of this is that tallow appears in quite a lot of products we already use.
Tallow, when you look into it, turns up everywhere: cosmetics, bottles, car parts, credit cards.
It is a byproduct of the meat industry. If it weren’t sold on to other industries, it would be waste.
We’ll just end up chucking away the extra fat and paying more for our beef, which rather conflicts with that other key part of Britishness — the Sunday roast and its leftovers.