About calves reared for veal
Veal is the meat from calves, mostly pure-bred male dairy calves.
In many countries, including the UK, veal production is closely linked to the dairy industry; male dairy calves cannot produce milk and are often considered unsuitable for beef production.
Within the EU, thousands of calves are transported on long journeys to veal farms in countries such as the Netherlands from countries as far away as Poland and Ireland.
Veal production on the continent
Although not common in the UK, veal farms are widespread on the continent. Around six million calves are reared for veal within the EU every year. The biggest EU producers are France (over 1.4 million calves), the Netherlands (1.5 million calves) and Italy (almost 800,000 calves).
Although the veal crate was banned across the EU in January 2007, Compassion is concerned about the welfare issues surrounding standard EU veal production.
Veal production in the UK
When produced under the best conditions, veal does not need to be a cruel meal and there are several higher welfare alternatives.
Calves reared to UK standard are provided with bedding and younger calves receive double the amount of fibrous food compared to continental veal calves. Older UK calves have greater space allowance than stipulated in EU law. Their diet must provide a minimum amount of iron equal to the EU minimum.
Unfortunately, very few calves are reared for veal in Great Britain due to low demand for this meat. As a result, a large number are killed shortly after birth or may be exported to the continent.
Due to co-operation between Compassion in World Farming, the RSPCA and the industry through the Calf Stakeholder Forum, more male dairy calves are now reared humanely for beef and the number of calves being shot at birth has greatly decreased. There is more work to do - up to 99,000 are still shot every year and over 10,000 exported to the continent*.
Intensive veal conditions - small group, housed on slatted floor
Since the ban on veal crates was introduced in January 2007, calves up to eight weeks old may be kept in individual pens, where they can turn around and be in contact with other calves. After this, they are reared in groups of up to 80 calves, often in sheds with a wooden slatted floor.
Narrow veal crates cause tremendous suffering to calves. The situation has improved in recent years – they are now illegal in the UK and the EU – but are still in use in other parts of the world, including the US.
Calves kept in crates are typically fed an unhealthy diet of milk with no, or far too little, solid food, in order to keep their flesh pale. Their diet prevents their digestive system from developing properly and they can become dangerously anaemic.
* Calf exports from Great Britain are currently suspended to the Netherlands due to an industry-led import ban of British calves. This is due to fears over bovine TB. However, calves from Northern Ireland are still transported.
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