I became vegetarian at age seven after making the connection that hamburgers and hot dogs came from animals. I remember being totally shocked and horrified that anyone would eat food that had to be killed. It wasn’t until many years later that I discovered veal was actually baby animals. So, if you didn’t already know, veal is the meat of baby cows, usually males and they are normally between five and eight months old when killed. These calves are a direct co-product of the dairy industry. The two industries are linked and the production of veal and dairy is indisputably one of the cruelest forms of animal abuse on the planet.
Although times are changing and more people are going vegan than ever before, baby cows are still being killed for their meat. Keep reading to learn more.
Babies are separated at birth
If you are familiar with how the dairy industry operates you already know that dairy cows don’t choose to become pregnant, they are forcefully inseminated. This cruel practice keeps them pregnant repeatedly, so they keep producing milk for consumers. But did you ever wonder what happens to their babies? Both male and female calves are separated from their mother as early as one day old. The females are often kept alive so they can grow up to become a milking machine like their mom and face a life of heartache and torture. They do not get to drink the milk from their mother that is intended for them. The male calves are either shot at birth or sent to live in tiny stalls and raised for veal. The devastated mother cows bellow for days and desperately search for their babies while some run to chase after their calves helplessly. Their heartbreaking cries have been captured on video like this mother cow desperately running after her babies in New Zealand as they are taken away in the back of a truck. It is the last time she will ever see them.
Humane Society Veterinary Medical Association (HSVMA) explains the life of a veal calf born to a dairy cow mom.
“"Milk fed" veal calves are often anemic. The calves are fed a low iron diet to produce the most desired white meat. They are fed milk replacer, which can be laced with antibiotics in order to control the diarrhea that is caused by an inadequate diet. These calves are restricted from moving and spend their lives in small stalls or hutches. They are slaughtered at 18 to 20 weeks of age. Calves can be so crippled from confinement that they have to be helped into the truck or trailer on the way to the slaughter plant.” - HSVMA
Without the dairy industry the veal industry would not exist. It’s just another reason to ditch dairy forever and choose cruelty-free milk options like coconut, oat, soy, almond or rice.
Cruelty to calves runs rampant on veal farms
Veal crates keep calves prisoner their entire lives. They never see sunlight or breathe fresh air.
Although veal crates are banned in Canada and the U.K, there is no federal law prohibiting their use in the United States. An undercover investigation by Mercy For Animals at Buckeye Veal Farm in Apple Creek, Ohio in 2010 revealed calves chained inside two-foot-wide wooden stalls. You can watch the video here.
“These stalls did not allow calves to turn around, much less walk, run, play, or socialize with other animals. Calves could not breathe fresh air or see sunlight. They were unable to lie down comfortably or even clean themselves.” – Mercy For Animals
Some US states have individually banned the use of veal crates, including Ohio, but not nearly enough have done so yet. Over the years other undercover investigations by animal rights activists have revealed workers violently punching, kicking, throwing, and tormenting calves. The babies are left to suffer alone on the floor until they die. They are deprived of social contact with their mothers and other calves, malnourished, anemic, iron deficient due to an unnatural diet, their lack of exercise prevents normal muscle development, they are prohibited from grazing naturally outside on grass, and their extreme and endless boredom leads to despair and health issues. When it’s time to be killed calves are violently forced onto and off slaughterhouse trucks and prodded into kill lines. By this point many of the babies are not even able to stand up and often collapse on the floor.
The violent transport to slaughter
It has been proven that calves experience significant stress during transport from the farm to slaughterhouse. Many of them must travel on long journeys and are exposed to exhaustion, extreme heat or cold, lack of bedding, proper food, and suffer from diarrhea among other medical issues. In a comprehensive study published in 2018 by Biomedical Journal of Scientific & Technical Research, they examine factors causing transportation stress in calves during transport.
“The most pervasive factors with long transportation of cattle include loading and unloading, bad handling, inappropriate driving, poor road conditions, too hot or too cold climate, insufficient ventilation, high stocking densities, mixing of unfamiliar groups, deck height, water and food deprivation, vibration, vehicle motion and length of the journey.”
The study mentions other issues impacting the young calves are noise, vibration, crowding, unsafe vehicles, illegal route plans, negligence, restraint and improper handling of the animals. It’s important to consider that even when there are laws mandating farmed animals be treated a certain way, they are often not followed. In a study conducted at a Swiss dairy farm and published in PubMed it’s revealed laws are not taken seriously.
“No bedding was provided on three transports performed by veal farmers although this is prescribed by law.”
To learn more about the live transport of animals check out Why Live Exports Should Be Banned. Furthermore, there is no such thing as “humane veal” even if the calves are raised on small scale family farms. There is simply no humane way to kill an animal that wants to live.
Ready to ditch veal? There are so many packaged vegan meats to enjoy that are readily available at the grocery store. All you have to do is pick your favourite. Vegan options are even plentiful at many mainstream restaurants and include plant-based nuggets, veggie burgers, and vegan sausages. Lots of popular restaurants also have cashew or coconut cheese to replace dairy mozzarella on pizza and cheddar in pasta dishes. By also skipping dairy you stop contributing to cruelty many times over! When cooking at home, you can substitute tofu, tempeh or seitan in your favourite traditional recipe and add your own seasoning. If you prefer unprocessed replacements, there are so many veggies that can sub for meat that are way healthier anyways. Try eggplant, mushrooms, coconut, potatoes, beets, or cauliflower. Beans, legumes, and nuts are also great sources of protein and can be made into patties or other dishes. With all these plant-based alternatives you will never go hungry.
Five things you can do to help:
- The most impactful action you can take to save animals and the planet is to become vegan. If you aren't already vegan, don't worry, it's not too late. A great way to get started with a plant-based diet is through Challenge 22 or Veganuary.
- Sign the Plant Based Treaty. Your endorsement will help put pressure on national governments to negotiate an international Plant Based Treaty as a companion to the UNFCCC/Paris Agreement. The treaty calls for system changes such as an end to live exports, no new deforestation for animal agriculture, ending subsidies for animal agriculture and calling on industries and governments to switch to plant-based solutions, and reforesting the Earth.
- Start an Animal Save Movement chapter in your area.
- Share this blog article.