The vast majority of 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 the UK imports a ramge of 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.
Veal crates were banned in the EU in 2007 but veal production (in 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’.
Rose veal production differs from white veal in that calves may only be kept in individual stalls until eight weeks old after which they must be group housed. From birth, calves must be fed a diet which contains sufficient iron to avoid anaemia and from two weeks of age they must be provided with a daily ration of fibrous food to allow normal rumen development (rumen is one of cow’s stomachs).
Rose veal calves are slaughtered at around six to eight months of age. In 2011, 360,355 bull calves were kept in the UK for veal or low quality beef.
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).
“The best conditions for rearing young calves involve leaving the calf with the mother in a circumstance where the calf can suckle and can subsequently graze and interact with other calves.”
Scientific Veterinary Committee, Animal Welfare Section’s Report on the Welfare of Calves
No dairy calves are allowed to enjoy these conditions.
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