Cows produce milk for the same reason humans and other mammals do—to nourish their young. But the millions of cows who live on U.S. dairy farms are forced into a vicious cycle of continuous pregnancy so that they will produce milk for human consumption. Their female calves are slaughtered immediately or used to replace their mothers in the dairy herd, and many male calves suffer a fate that is completely different but no less cruel—one of confinement, darkness, malnutrition, and slaughter.
The Cow-Calf Bond
Without human intervention, calves suckle from their mothers for nearly a year.(1) One veterinary study revealed that “during natural weaning there is never complete and abrupt abandonment of the calf by the cow. In fact, the … cow and calf will maintain a lifelong relationship of social contact and companionship ….”(2) Another study found that a cow and her calf can develop a “strong maternal bond” in as little as five minutes.(3) But calves born on dairy farms are taken from their mothers the day they are born and fed milk replacers, including cattle blood, so that humans can have the milk instead.(4,5) This forced separation causes cows and calves great stress, and cows have been known to escape enclosures and travel for miles to reunite with their young.
Small Stalls and No Exercise
Veal calves are forced to spend their short lives in individual crates that are no more than 30 inches wide and 72 inches long.(6) These crates are designed to prohibit exercise and normal muscle growth in order to produce tender “gourmet” veal. The calves are fed a milk substitute that is purposely low in iron so that they will become anemic and their flesh will stay pale.(7)
Because of these extremely unhealthy living conditions, calves raised for veal are susceptible to a long list of diseases, including chronic pneumonia and diarrhea. A study published in the Journal of Animal Science found that calves who were kept in “smaller housing units” had difficulty keeping themselves clean and had trouble “extending their front legs and changing from a lying to a standing position,” which resulted in joint swelling. It was also determined that stereotypical stress behaviors such as tongue rolling and “sham-chewing” (the act of chewing without food in the mouth) increase when smaller pens were used and as calves get older.(8)
After enduring 12 to 23 weeks in these conditions, these young animals—many of whom can barely walk because of sickness or muscle atrophy—are crowded into metal trucks for transport to the slaughterhouse.(9) On these trucks, they are trampled and suffer from temperature extremes and lack of food, water, and veterinary care.
Federal Oversight of Illegal Drugs
The U.S. Department of Agriculture has never approved the use of hormones on veal calves, but in early 2004, federal officials found a “suspicious lump” in a Wisconsin calf, which turned out to be a hormone implant; hormone implants are commonly used in adult cows but are not allowed in young animals.(10) The subsequent investigation revealed that as many as 90 percent of U.S. veal calves are illegally fed synthetic testosterone, and a spokesperson for the American Veal Association confessed that the practice had been going on for 30 years.(11)
A decade prior to that discovery, federal agents found more than a dozen veal production companies that had been giving calves clenbuterol, an illegal and toxic drug that speeds growth and increases anemia in the calves. Even trace amounts of clenbuterol can cause severe illness in humans, including increased heart rate, tremors, breathing difficulties, fever, and even death.(12)
What You Can Do
Veal crates have been prohibited in Britain since 1990, and they were phased out of all European Union member countries as of 2007.(13) The board of the American Veal Association has passed a resolution recommending that all veal producers in the United States convert to group housing by 2017.(14) Ask your state legislators to sponsor bills that would prohibit the use of veal crates. Visit NoVeal.org for more information.
In addition to refusing to eat veal, don’t consume dairy products—veal calves are a “coproduct” of the dairy industry. Discover the joy of soy instead! Fortified soy, almond, and rice milks provide calcium, vitamins, iron, zinc, and protein but contain no cholesterol. They are perfect for cereal, coffee, and soups and also work well in baked goods and other recipes. Many delicious dairy alternatives—such as almond, rice, oat, or soy milk and Soy Dream and Tofutti brand nondairy ice creams—are available in health-food and grocery stores.
Vegetarianism and veganism mean eating for life—yours and animals’. Go to VegCooking.com for great recipes, nutritional information, cooking and shopping tips, and more. Visit GoVeg.com to order a free copy of PETA’s “Vegetarian Starter Kit.”
1) Joseph M. Stookey and Derek B. Haley, “The Latest in Alternate Weaning Strategies,” Department of Large Animal Clinical Sciences, Western College of Veterinary Medicine, 2002.
2) Stookey and Haley.
3) Frances C. Flower and Daniel M. Weary, “Effects of Early Separation on the Dairy Cow and Calf: 2. Separation at 1 Day and 2 Weeks After Birth,” Applied Animal Behaviour Science 70 (2001): 275-84.
4) David Goldstein, “Up Close: A Beef With Dairy,” KCAL, 30 May 2002.
5) “Mad Cow Casts Light on Beef Uses,” Los Angeles Times 4 Jan. 2004.
6) Tammy L. Terosky et al., “Effects of Individual Housing Design and Size on Special-Fed Holstein Veal Calf Growth Performance, Hematology, and Carcass Characteristics,” Journal of Animal Science 75 (1997): 1697-1703.
7) “Top New York Restaurants Stop Serving White Veal,” Reuters, 6 Jul. 2000.
8) Terosky et al.
9) Nicholas Schoon, “Focus: The Hens Have Got Lucky; Battery Chickens May Soon Have Their Suffering Eased, but It’s Still a Grim Existence for Millions of Cows, Pigs, and Sheep,” The Independent 31 Jan. 1999.
10) Elizabeth Weise, “Illegal Hormones Found in Veal Calves,” USA Today 28 Mar. 2004.
11) Elizabeth Weise, “Growth Hormones in Veal Spark Debate: FDA Says They’re Illegal, but Industry Says They’re Not New,” USA Today 2 Apr. 2004.
12) Daneil P. Puzo, “Probe Links Toxic Drug to Some Veal Producers,” Los Angeles Times 14 Oct. 1994.
13) “Veal Association Recommends Group Housing,” American Veterinary Medical Association, 15 Sep. 2007.
14) Martin Hickman, “The Appeal of Veal,” The Independent 2 Sep. 2006.