Torn from his mother at a day or two old, fragile male dairy calves face a terrifying journey to the Continent to be imprisoned on a veal farm. This happens because people drink milk.
All calves raised for veal worldwide are male calves that are by-products of the dairy industry. In many countries such as the USA – from which we import some dairy products – veal crates are still the predominant rearing system. These tiny wooden crates are so narrow that the calves cannot turn around for most of their lives, depriving them of exercise and preventing normal muscle development – to keep their flesh supple. They are also fed an iron-deficient diet to produce the anaemic ‘white’ veal prized by gourmets. Calves kept in these conditions suffer from high incidences of infectious disease and develop stereotyped behaviour patterns such as tongue rolling, crate-licking or mutual tongue sucking.
Veal crates were banned in the EU in 2007 but veal production (within any rearing system) still requires calves to be separated from their mothers within a day of birth. These calves are then placed in pens or hutches, alone or with several other calves, before they are sold to be reared mostly as ‘rose veal’. They are then slaughtered at around six months of age, although some may be older.
The UK also exports calves to the EU to be raised for veal. The live export of veal calves to the EU restarted in 2006 after (due to BSE) a 10 year ban. In 2011 exports were estimated to be around 11,000 calves (per year).
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