Four days after Sarah Brown wrote on Twitter about not eating veal at the G8 summit, Phil Brooke, Welfare Development Manager of Compassion in World Farming, joined BBC Breakfast at Bocaddon Farm, a veal farm in South East Cornwall.
Calves running around in open air yards on deep straw bedding might not be what people imagine when they hear the word 'veal'. Yet, it is how the calves on Bocaddon Farm Veal live. Here, the calves are reared to a British standard, and when it comes to veal, British equals higher welfare.
Reared in groups, British veal calves have greater space allowance than continental calves, and are provided with bedding throughout the rearing period. They're given double the amount of fibrous food and growing calves are fed a normal diet without restriction of iron intake and solid food.
This is in stark contrast to the lives of continental veal calves. Calves reared to an EU standard are typically reared on barren slatted floors, with a minimal space allowance and a milk-based diet which leaves many anaemic. Approximately one million calves are transported very long distances to reach these intensive rearing conditions.
Phil Brooke said: "It is a great humanitarian gesture of Sarah Brown not to eat intensively reared veal. Calves reared for veal outside Britain are likely to have been exported long distances and reared in barren conditions without bedding.
"Compassion in World Farming believes calf welfare depends on rearing system and diet, and some veal can be considered higher welfare. British standard is an excellent example. Not only are rearing conditions good, but rearing these male dairy calves for veal in the UK prevents them from being shot at birth as they are unwanted by the dairy industry.
"We ask anyone who eats veal to choose British."
Over a quarter of the British population eats veal (YouGov 2009). Although not widely available in supermarkets, it is likely to be on the menu in many restaurants - such as your local Italian and French - and for sale at butchers and delis across the country. Sadly, most of this comes from intensive rearing units on the continent.