I don’t really know why, but unlike many vegetarians and vegans I can’t really get too worked up about the tallow in the new fiver. The first time I got one of these was in the village of Grosmont at the local shop (a local shop for local people) – in fact the place seemed to be awash with them; but it wasn’t until I got back to civilisation that I heard about the tallow. If I’m honest, my reaction was a shrug of the shoulders. What’s the big deal? There are bigger things to worry about, in my opinion. After all, I’m veggie not vegan; I wear leather and suede and use things with animal products in. I don’t mind handling meat on the odd occasion (though I guess it depends what type of meat and what I’m doing with it) and to me, vegetarianism is about what I put in my body not what I hold in my hand.
I first embraced vegetarianism when I was living in a yoga ashram. The plant-based diet was considered to be a peaceful one; first, because it didn’t involve the slaughter of other living things, and second, because the consumption of meat was thought to raise levels of aggression-inducing hormones. There are also of course health reasons for not eating meat: it’s better for your digestion and the diet tends to be lower in fat and cholesterol.
That was twenty-five years ago, and I’ve never looked back. Though initially I missed things like corned beef and tuna, the very thought of what I’m actually eating is enough to put me off should I get the urge to order, say, a bacon sandwich (bacon is one of the hardest things to give up). Not everyone was supportive at first; my family didn’t understand it and when I said I had a craving for bacon, urged me to ‘just have some!’ Not helpful. But I’ve never regretted it. My digestion functions much better and I think I probably am less aggressive, though it’s hard to say as other life-changes went along with a change of diet.
Yet I can’t bring myself to care about tallow in five pound notes. Maybe I should – maybe I would if I gave it more thought, but I don’t. And I get a little pissed off when people say there’s no point in being just vegetarian: that you might as well go the whole hog and become vegan. I don’t want to be vegan. Vegan is too extreme for me. There are many reasons for being vegetarian and they should all be respected.
I would be interested in hearing your thoughts…