A petition calling on the Bank of England to remove animal fat from the new £5 note has received more than 17,000 signatures in less than a day.

Many vegans and vegetarians have backed the petition to remove the substance - known as tallow - from the notes, which are printed in Debden.

The product comes from cows, sheep and occasionally pigs.

The petition, started yesterday (November 28) by Doug Maw, says: “This is unacceptable to millions of vegans, vegetarians, Hindus, Sikhs, Jains and others in the U.K.

“We demand that you cease to use animal products in the production of currency that we have to use.”

The issue came to light after the Bank of England confirmed tallow’s presence in the notes on Twitter.

Some people have commented in support for the petition.

Writing on Change.org, Tina Degner from London said: “As an animal right activist I have to express my shock that banknotes containing an animal product is forced on the public.”

She added: “Also as environmentalist I'm disgusted to learn that a product clearly obtained from livestock is used in the production of banknotes.

“As you may be aware livestock is one of the main culprits in climate change and I'm concerned that this industry is further supported by using tallow in banknotes.”

The new “plastic fiver” was launched in September.

Featuring Sir Winston Churchill, who represented both Epping and Woodford as MP, the polymer notes new security features to make them harder to forge, are resistant to dirt and moisture, and are strong enough to last for more than twice as long as the current two year expectancy.

The new material means they can be repeatedly folded and can even survive the washing machine.