Vegetarian cafe owner who refuses 'animal fat' £5 notes shocked at hate backlash

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A vegetarian cafe owner said she has been left shocked and frightened by some of the reaction since she refused to accept the new £5 note due to its animal fat content.

Sharon Meijland, who has run the Rainbow Cafe in Cambridge for almost 30 years, made the move earlier this week, after it emerged traces of the derivative, known as tallow, are used in the production process.

Concerns have been raised about the implications for vegetarians, vegans and members of religious groups using the notes, which were introduced into circulation in September.

The businesswoman said her own customers have been very supportive but told of the "hatred" from some people posting online.

She said: "Our own customers who are actually in the restaurant in Cambridge have been very favourable, but it is people on Facebook - there's been a good deal of charming comments such as 'I hope this comes back to bite you in the ass'".

The 66-year-old said she believes some people are reacting in such a way "because I made a stand" and said she had been wrongly accused of seeking publicity for the cafe.

After signing the petition Ms Meijland said she spoke with staff and they decided they could not justify handling the notes.

She said: "We all said we all felt very uneasy about handling it (the note). We thought the only way round this is to just not accept them."

Vowing to stick with the decision she added: "I am shocked and frightened at my age to get such hatred (online)."

Doug Maw, who started a petition against use of the note, said he was "disgusted" a more suitable alternative had not been sourced.

The 47-year-old hotel worker from Keswick in Cumbria said it is "unacceptable to millions of vegans, vegetarians, Hindus, Sikhs, Jains and others in the UK".

More than 125,000 people have since signed the petition.

The Bank of England said it is  "aware of some people's concerns" and is looking at "potential solutions".