2009: Veal exports from Poland to Italy and the Netherlands

Every year up to half a million male dairy calves are born in the UK, many to be transported long distances to intensive veal farms in Europe as they are often considered an unwanted by-product of the UK dairy industry. But the intensive veal industry also uses calves from other countries in Europe – which means millions more animals face the same cruelty.

In 2009, Compassion in World Farming’s investigations unit has gone behind the scenes to document one of the biggest trades in live animals in mainland Europe: the long distance transport of hundreds of thousands of calves from Poland to Italy and The Netherlands, where they will be raised for veal in conditions already illegal in the UK.

Veal investigation footage

In 2008, over 1.1 million calves were transported long distances across Europe to reach veal rearing units.

The cost of live animal transport

Research shows that, during and after transport, calves can suffer from:

  • heat and cold stress;
  • weight loss;
  • increased body temperature, heart rate, plasma cortisol and adrenaline levels;
  • fear and physical fatigue;
  • increased levels of infection; and
  • high mortality rates.

White or Rose Veal?

Every year, around five million calves are reared for veal within the EU. Most of these calves are fed a low-iron diet, mainly milk or milk replacer, in order to keep their flesh pale in colour. This is often called ‘white veal’. Meat from calves slaughtered when they are aged between eight and 12 months is usually called ‘rosé’ veal.

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Current EU legislation stipulates:

  • Calves under 10 days old can be transported for up to 100 km once the navel has healed
  • Calves from 10 to 14 days old can be transported for up to 8 hours
  • Calves over 14 days old can be transported on long journeys across the EU provided the calf is rested for 24 hours after 18 hours of travel

Compassion recommends a limit of eight hours on journeys to slaughter.

Compassion in World Farming makes formal complaints to Member States regarding their failure to comply with Community legislation on the protection of animals during transport.

In Italy, investigators visited farms that took animals for both white veal and rosé veal production. We saw intensive conditions and a repeated lack of welfare provision at many of both kinds of farms in Italy.

We discovered Polish calves kept in narrow stalls; but the true scale of the trade became apparent when investigators also discovered calves from Austria, Romania and Lithuania in the same systems.

Italy imports almost 130,000 calves from across the EU. The biggest exporters of calves to Italy are Poland (almost 55,000), Austria (almost 25,000), and France (over 17,000).

Compassion has serious concerns about intensive calf rearing:

  • Slatted floors
    Calves reared to EU standard spend their lives on fully-slatted floors which are difficult to stand and lie on. Slatted floors increase the risk of foot injuries and lameness.
  • Space
    The EU Scientific Panel on Animal Health and Welfare considers that there is a ‘very serious‘ risk that intensively reared calves do not have sufficient space for their animal behaviour needs.
  • Diet
    Evidence shows that the EU minimum iron requirement may be too low for full health and robustness. Anaemia damages the immune system and causes calves to be weak, lethargic and probably to feel unwell.

You can tell from the label whether the veal you buy comes from animals transported long distances.

Regulation 1760/2000 of the European Parliament and the Council provides that beef and veal must be labelled as to the:

(i) Member State or third country of birth;
(ii) All Member States or third countries where fattening took place;
(iii) Member State or third country where slaughter took place.

Have a look at the labels, and avoid meat from animals transported long distances.

Long distance transport must stop

Transporting any animal long distance for fattening or slaughter is unnecessary. Keeping hundreds of animals in cramped conditions in lorries and ships is completely unacceptable, and a maximum journey time of 8 hours is more than enough. Yet, every year, millions of farm animals endure journeys of days – or even weeks – across Europe and around the world.

Find out how you can take action

Please consider making a donation to Compassion today. Help us continue the fight for EU legislation to enforce an 8-hour limit on journey times for animals. And help us lead the way towards tighter, properly enforced global regulation of all farm animal transport.

Donate now

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