Barbaric, heinous and absolutely appalling. There really isn't an adjective strong enough to describe the completely torturous acts involved in the Veal industry, but I'll keep going to the top shelf to put into colourful context just how strongly I oppose this industry.
For those who aren't aware, or those who've spared themselves the in's and out's of just how morally bankrupt the veal industry is, here's a brief - albeit grisly, rundown of what happens behind the scenes so that a small minority can have calf meat on their dinner plate.
At birth, the majority of male calves are almost immediately separated from their mothers. Not only does this cause an extreme amount of stress on the calf, it also causes depression and stress on the mother. Cattle, if you didn't already know, are extremely social animals - not unlike dogs. They depend on their family unit immensely in the early stages of life to develop the necessary bonds and survival skills they require to live through their natural progressions and life cycle. Male calves are most commonly harvested for veal because they cannot lactate, and therefore aren't able to provide dairy farms with milk.
Not only are the calves separated from their mothers, they're also separated from their mother's milk. Instead, the calves are fed an artificial and protein rich supplement that provides just the minimum amount of nutrients to keep them alive. After a few weeks, they're usually switched to a corn based diet to help fatten them up in a very short amount of time. During this feeding phase, calves designated for veal consumption live in (even by factory farming standards) some of the absolute worst conditions imaginable. Essentially there are three different types of housing for the veal calves: hutches, stalls and group pens.
Hutches are small white domes used to isolate the calves from one another. The stated purpose for these domes is to prevent the spread of disease, which is pretty rampant in the veal industry. Not only do the hutches prevent the socialization that young calves crave, it also greatly restricts the mobility of the calf and their ability to absorb nutrients from natural sunlight. Stalls involve the calves being grouped in a row, generally with their head jammed between two steel bars to prevent movement. The lack of muscle development is crucial for the veal meat to be considered tender enough. Finally, in group pens, there is some socialization that occurs between the calves but usually it's for a limited amount of time, as the calves are marked for slaughter by 16 weeks old. No matter how you look at it, the short lives for these calves are filled with nothing but fear, abuse and deprivation.
So by now you're probably thinking - "Wow, thanks for depressing the heck out of me, not so Groovy Vegans!" And I would be inclined to agree with you, the veal industry and practices should depress anybody who has a compassionate heart. But the tide is turning! Veal consumption rates are bottoming out. Since the mid 70's veal consumption is the United States is down about 76 percent. In addition to people turning away from veal due to the negative health implications, more people are becoming aware of the cruel aspects of the industry, thanks to organizations and individuals shining a light on the realities of veal farming.
The Humane Farming Association have been vigorously involved in many expose's as well as a National Veal Boycott. Their website offers many amazing statistics that support how activism has put the veal industry in a relative free fall since the 1980's. They also include ways for you to get involved - either through donation, or with information on how to contact legislators to voice your displeasure with the continuation of the veal industry.
After reading and researching more about the Veal production, you'll likely find yourself feeling a bit down due to the alarming and inhumane ways of this industry, and that's natural. Just remember, battles are won everyday - people are taking notice, younger generations are overwhelmingly rejecting mistakes of past generations, and animal activism is stronger than it's ever been. Veganism and compassion are on the rise and the future is looking more groovy all the time!
Thanks for reading - and remember to support your local sanctuaries and rescues when you can, and keep the dream of a Cruelty Free Future alive!
Jesse - The Groovy Vegan