Issue Report: Veal

Is the farming and consumption of veal acceptable?

Veal is a delicate meat from baby cattle or calves that are killed and slaughtered within the first years of their lives. Their meat is considered a delicacy, first because it is so tender and also because it can, with a milk-based diet, be pale or a light pink. Veal has been produced for centuries as a delicacy within certain cultures. Today, it has generated a substantial controversies around the world about the practice, whether it should be banned, whether it should be simply reformed, and whether you as a consumer should protest veal farming by avoiding buying the good, encouraging others to protest purchasing it, actively commenting to restaurant owners your issues with it, and even getting more heavily involved as an advocate. We can help answer these questions by first asking more questions to frame this public debate. Questions such as, is it justified to kill a baby cow? Obviously, we kill cows and consume their meat with little public outcry; but is it less OK and maybe even also ethically wrong to kill a baby cow simply because it is a baby? In either scenario, is it OK to subject cattle to modern practices of procuring tender (atrophied) and pale (iron-deprived) veal meat, as it is apparently most desired in the market today? Can the worst case scenario of forcing baby cattle to stand in small hutches (tiny pins) with no light and no exercise, and for the specific purpose of weakening them so that their meat is more tender, be justified? Is the tenderness of veal meat, and its long history as such, worth this and the suffering it puts a baby cow through? In the worst case scenario, where veal are subject to milk-only diets for the purpose of fostering iron deficiency, anemia, and pale meat, is this worth it to the market, consumer tastes, and upholding the history of this cultural delicacy? Is it worth the suffering it puts the baby cattle through? If it’s not, can we adjust veal farming so that it is more humane by increasing the size of pins, making conditions more comfortable, allowing veal to roam in “loose housing” arrangements, providing veal with more nutrient rich, non-anemia-inducing diets, including grain diets? Would this make “veal” into something else, destroying the delicacy of it? Does this mean that we should take these kinds of steps before we consider banning the practice outright; a kind of exhaust valve before any ban? Or, is veal farming still inherently wrong because it entails the killing of baby cattle, thus making it necessary to ban the practice outright? Do these traditional veal farming techniques really procure a tasty delicacy? Even if it is tasty, is it healthy to human consumers, or does the process entail veal being injected with antibiotics and medicines that are then unhealthily transfered into consumers? Can these hormonal and medicinal additives be done away with, while still maintaining traditional veal farming methods? Also, what is the full value of culture, and veal as a cultural delicacy? Should this culture be broken if it is considered wrong? Could tradition for tradition’s sake have some cultural-societal legitimacy in the modern day? And, finally, what are the economic impacts of all of this stuff? Are people’s livelihoods dependent on traditional veal farming practices? Would a drastic reduction in the consumption of veal or an outright ban of it mean terrible things to these people’s lives?
These are the questions we must all answer in order to understand where we stand in this debate.

Killing calves: Is it acceptable to kill baby calves for veal?

If cattle can be killed tolerably, what makes killing them as calves unethical?

It is important to realize that cows are farmed to be killed, butchered, and eaten. There is no real dispute that this ethically acceptable. So, what could make killing cattle at an earlier stage ethically unacceptable? If killing cows is acceptable, than it should be acceptable at any stage in the life of cows. Sympathy should not be extended to calves simply because they are young and maybe cute. No analogous sympathy and special consideration is extended to baby humans. Killing a baby human is just as unacceptable as killing an adult human. By analogy, killing a baby cow should be just as tolerable as killing a cow.

Veal is to cattle as lamb is to sheep

Predicting a rise in consumer interest, a Tesco spokesman said: “Veal is to cattle what lamb is to sheep and recent TV shows such as The F Word have done a lot to explain that it is OK to eat veal if its production meets strict welfare standards.”[1]

Veal farming is a good alternative to the slaughtering of unwanted calves

The dairy industry as well as the meat industry often slaughter baby calves for a variety of reasons, either because more calves are born than are needed to supply either dairy production or cow meet, or because the calves that are born will be of an undesirable quality when they grow up, either as a source of dairy products or of meat. It is better to rear these calves for veal than to slaughter them wastefully.

It is cruel to harm and kill baby cows at such an early age.

Human dignity demands that a special respect be given to the lives of baby animals. To subject a baby cow to cruel treatment and death at the early age of 3 months violates this notion of human dignity, and so should be stopped.

Humans use products from calves, but calves do not use human products.

Nearly all calves that have ever existed have been used for human use. This is extremely unfair and is a complete abuse to animal rights and dignity. Humans use calves for many purposes, including veal, which is a main resource. But it is not fair for humans get get food and dairy out of calves, because humans do not giving anything back to these poor calves.

If someone killed a human at any age it would be murder, so why should it be any different with cows.

Cows are intelligent creatures and there is no way they should be murdered for human consumption. Would you want to die? No. So why kill others.

General humaneness: Is veal farming generally humane or cruel?

Modern veal producers follow strict regulations on humane treatment

Modern veal producers use advanced husbandry practices, as outlined in the Recommended Code of Practice for the Care and Handling of Veal Calves, which regulates such things as stall sizes and structures. Farmers, researchers, and processors in conjunction with the Canadian Federation of Humane Societies, Agriculture and Agri-Food Canada wrote this code in 1984. Copies of it can be found at

If humane practices are not being followed, than regulations can be improved.

That the treatment of baby cows is cruel in some farms does not mean that such treatment will persist. Regulations can be passed to end such cruel and undignified treatments. But, to ban veal farming all together would be to overcompensate for current regulation failures.

Veal calves are kept in tortuous conditions

"Veal: A Cruel Meal" -

“The real issue is the calves’ experience. During their brief lives, they never see the sun or touch the Earth. They never see or taste the grass. Their anemic bodies crave proper sustenance. Their muscles ache for freedom and exercise. They long for maternal care. They are kept in darkness except to be fed two to three times a day for 20 minutes. The calves have committed no crime, yet have been sentenced to a fate comparable to any Nazi concentration camp.”

Veal farming is inherently abusive to calves to meet market demands

After baby cows are taken away from their mothers and sold at auctions, they are taken to a tiny wooden crates that they will live in for the rest of their short lives. They cannot exercise or even lie down and they are kept in darkness and deprived of certain nutrients, in order to ensure that their muscles remain weak and tender when consumed by humans. Treating baby cows in this way is not justified by any human desire for tender meat.[2]

A ban on veal farming would provide an important boost to animal rights.

The inherently cruel treatment of baby cows for veal meat must stop, and a ban would really boost animal’s rights and welfare.

Anything which involves murdering animals is cruel .

Murder is cruel, always. Animals have a mind, they feel pain, they don’t ant to die. So we are going against the perfectly reasonable wish of the animals.

Hutches: Is the raising of veal in hutches acceptable or cruel?

Hutches are an important part of classic veal production.

Hutches keep veal weak and their muscles atrophied so that they are tender to eat. This tenderness is an important part of the history and culture of veal consumption. The tenderness of the meat has always been its signature feature, and continues to be in high demand. There is importance to this cultural delicacy that must be considered, even against the treatment of the veal that is required to procure this delicacy.

Hutches can be more comfortable for veal calves.

There is no inherently bad quality about hutches. Certainly, many are designed to be so small as to prevent veal calves from moving around. If this is deemed unethical, however, hutches could be enlarged to allow calves to turn around, stretch their legs, and even get comfortable on a bed of hay. Reform is possible and has frequently been implemented.

Hutches could be abandoned without banning veal production completely.

The American Veal Association, for instance, passed a resolution in 2008 that calls for the veal industry to phase out the use of individual stalls. Such a phasing out could occur in other places, if we conclude that they are bad, with the result that the veal industry is simply modified to be more cruel.

Calves are kept in inhuman conditions in hutches

"Veal: A Cruel Meal"

– “Solitary Confinement The veal crate is a wooden restraining device that is the veal calf’s permanent home. It is so small (22″ x 54″) that the calves cannot turn around or even lie down and stretch and is the ultimate in high-profit, confinement animal agriculture.(1) Designed to prevent movement (exercise), the crate does its job of atrophying the calves’ muscles, thus producing tender ‘gourmet’ veal.”

Loose housing: Is loose housing a (more) acceptable form of raising veal?

"Loose housing" allows calves to roam free.

“Loose housing” allows calves to roam free when grazing and at other times. It allows them to stretch their legs, get sunlight, “socialize” to some extent, and to generally live more ordinary lives than if they were kept in hutches.

Loose housing for calves often subjects them to bullying and apprehension.

By allowing male calves to roam and graze with one-another, bullying often occurs with the result of apprehensions and fear among calves. These apprehensions and fears may leave calves no better off than if they are kept in isolation.

Milk diet: Is a milk only diet for calves inhumane?

Milk-based diets are healthy and humane for veal

"What is wrong with veal?". Animal Defenders International. Retrieved 4.07.08

– “Milk-based diets are balanced rations that involve commercial milk replacers, which utilize surplus skim milk powder and whey – both byproducts of the dairy industry – in their production. These commercial milk replacers are of equal or greater nutritional value than milk straight from the dairy cow. A great deal of time and care are taken to train the young calves to drink their milk from pails, and during this training period their diet will be supplemented with water and electrolytes to ensure they receive adequate fluids and nutrition.”

Calves are fed inhumane milk diets to keep them anemic and their meat pale

The iron-deficiency of this diet is what causes the anemia of calves that keeps their meat desirably pale. Iron-deficiencies and anemia create a host of problems in veal, including continual diarrheas (which is shown in the below image), and a vulnerability to diseases (which may also be on display in the below image).

diseased_vealThe iron-deficiency of this diet is what causes the anemia of calves that keeps their meat desirably pale. Iron-deficiencies and anemia create a host of problems in veal, including continual diarrheas (which is shown in the below image), and a vulnerability to diseases (which may also be on display in the below image).

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