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Male dairy calves and their role in the veal industry

This calf will spend his life like this, just so you can eat nice white flesh.
This calf will spend his life like this, just so you can eat nice white flesh.
Farm Sanctuary

The veal industry is really a by product of the dairy industry. Male calves are obviously not going to grow to become dairy cows, and because they are not bred for beef, not much use to the beef industry either.

Something needed to be done with the “surplus” male calves.

Some are shot at birth. In Okeechobee, Florida, dairy farm workers were caught on film dumping day old calves into a pit, and then shooting them.

Those that are not shot, are shipped off to be sold at auction, or end up at dirty feedlots, awaiting slaughter.

These young animals are roughly handled, while being loaded onto trucks. Those that cannot walk may be dragged by their legs or ears. Approximately 10% die before slaughter, due to rough handling.

The USDA recognises two types of veal: bob veal and special fed veal.

Bob veal is from calves slaughtered at less than three weeks of age, and generally used in cheap products like TV dinners. Approximately 15% of the roughly 700,000 calves raised for veal each year in the U.S. are bob veal.

Special fed calves are slaughtered at 16-18 weeks of age.

Most veal calves in the U.S. live in crates roughly 26-30 inches wide by 66 inches long. The calves are tethered to the front and cannot turn around, or lie down comfortably. They are basically immobilised, and live this way until they are slaughtered.

The white flesh that everyone loves to eat is due to anemia, from being fed a liquid milk substitute, with no iron.

The chewing instinct in calves is very strong, natural behaviors they cannot perform on this liquid diet. As a result, they develop stereotypical behaviors such as sham chewing, tongue rolling, licking and biting.

Impact of confinement

Some examples of the suffering they endure include:

Cannot stand or lie down properly.

Kept on uncomfortable wooden floors or coated metal grates. Research has shown when given a choice, they pick deep litter because it is more comfortable.

Lack of exercise prevents normal bone growth, or relief of boredom.

Cattle are social animals that get physical and psychological comfort from others of their kind. Calves that are isolated, with no mothers or other calves for company, suffer greatly.

Animals naturally explore their surroundings looking for danger, and places to hide/escape. The inability to move around and explore, leads to high levels of stereotypies.

Cattle naturally lick the parts of their body they can reach, and may use things like branches/fences for the parts they cannot reach. Confined calves can only reach their forelegs, so they lick them excessively and obsessively.

They experience leg and joint disorders, making it difficult to walk normally.

Who has banned the veal crate?

Tricia Barry, Communications Director for Farm Sanctuary provided this update on the ban on veal crates and anti-confinement laws in the U.S. “In Arizona and California these laws were passed as part of a citizen ballot initiative. In Colorado, Maine and Michigan, these laws were passed as part of legislation. We also have a pending agreement between the governor and ag interests in Ohio, although formal legislation has not been passed in that state.”

To watch videos exposing the factory farming of animals, and learn more about this cruel practice, please visit Mercy for Animals' website.

For a detailed report on the welfare of animals in the veal industry, please click here

For information on factory farming in Europe, visit Compassion in World Farming's website

To learn about Farm Sanctuary's No Veal Campaign, and how to get involved, please click here

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