Do you know anyone who eats veal? I don’t. Consumption of veal in the United States has indeed fallen dramatically over the last few decades. Back in the 1980’s horrendously cruel veal farming practices were broadly and publicly exposed. Once the public learned of these atrocities many people gave up veal for good. This is excellent. The fewer baby cows torn from their mothers at birth, crated or penned, fattened up and inhumanely slaughtered the better.
I imagine that many folks reading this opening paragraph are nodding along and feeling glad that they at one time decided to stop eating veal. It surely does feel good to connect with our compassionate natures.
Before going vegan I never ate veal, mostly because I didn’t like it. What I’ve learned over the last several months, however, is that the veal industry is a complete by-product of the dairy industry. Not only did I not know that, but I’m realizing that most people I share it with don’t know it either. And several of these people stopped eating veal for ethical reasons years ago.
Here’s how the system works. In order for female cows to lactate they need to continually become pregnant and give birth. I know that seems obvious but who really thinks about it? The cows are forcibly impregnated and they give birth approximately once a year. So, what happens to their babies? In factory farm operations where most of our milk is produced, all of the babies are removed from their mothers (their milk is for our consumption after all) right after they are born. The female calves will live the same lives as their mothers giving birth and producing milk until they can’t physically do it anymore (they will then probably become hamburger meat), and the male babies will most likely be sent to veal farms where conditions may be only marginally better than they were back in the 1980’s.
I read a bunch of articles about the dairy/veal connection and it’s incredibly bleak and sad. Ultimately there’s no avoiding the fact that every veal calf is born to a dairy cow mother. In my online search I found that some veal producers actively promote the dairy/veal connection suggesting that by eating veal we are indeed supporting the dairy industry. Check out this excerpt taken the Strauss Farms website (click here for the link)
Q: How does group raised veal support the dairy industry?
A: Dairy cows must calve every year in order to maintain milk production. Heifer (female) calves, are raised to re-enter the herd as milking cows. Bull (male) calves, provide little to no value to dairy farmers. The formula-fed veal industry evolved by utilizing a by-product of the cheese industry (whey) and a by-product of the dairy industry (bull calves). The flavor and texture of meat from dairy breeds is not desirable, and therefore they are not typically marketed as beef. Raising them as veal supports the dairy industry, which provides us with delicious ice cream, lattes, and cheese.
Happy veal and lots of lattes. I’ll pass on the whole unholy alliance.