Tuesday, 10 June 2008

Baby Cows – Should We Eat Them?

Photo: Cryptonaut

Veal has, for a very long time, been avoided at all costs by those with any kind of compassion and concern for animal welfare. Until 1990, male calves born to dairy herds were crated so that movement was restricted and atrophy of the muscles occurred. Why? In order to produce the white meat that’s still popular on the continent. Luckily, this method of raising veal calves was illegalised and British calves are now kept under far healthier conditions.

Because our veal is no longer crated we no longer produce white veal. What we have now is rosè veal, which apparently tastes just as good. I can’t actually tell you whether it does because I haven’t tried it... yet.

Veal, you see, is a by-product of dairy farming so really, if you want to drink milk, you should also eat veal. If you don’t, the countless male calves born to dairy herds every year will need to be otherwise disposed of. This can be done either by shooting them and discarding the carcasses or by shipping them overseas to be raised there. And while crates are illegal all over Europe now, slatted floors are still used making it more or less impossible for the calves to stand up. These are also illegal in the UK.

Of course, one argument, as heard on Big Brother recently, is that the male calves should simply be left to grow up and die of natural causes regardless of whether they produce milk or will be of any use as beef cattle. Well that’s all very noble and there was a time when I was younger that I would have agreed but if we’re to be honest, it just isn’t a viable option. Those bulls will need to be fed and cared for (veterinary bills etc) and that would ultimately push up the cost of other diary products. Imagine the outcry there would be then! They'd also take up valuable land space that could and should be used for food production as well as producing huge amounts of methane for no worthwhile reason, putting their own species, as well as ours, under threat.

The average male dairy calf is slaughtered at six months. Not a long life by any stretch of the imagination and yes, it is sad. But it’s reality and I do think it’s better to eat it than waste it.

If you don’t drink milk or use other dairy products then you have no reason to have any kind of personal conscience when it comes to the male calves. Most of us, however, do use the white stuff in one form or another and are therefore indirectly supporting the production of these male dairy calves and only our choice - to eat or not to eat - will determine their future.

I’m going to give British veal a go. Rather on my plate after a reasonably decent 6 months than on the plate of a continental after the same time spent living under appalling conditions.

Sharon J xx


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Pat said...

It makes me laugh (well it makes me annoyed as it happens) when vegetarians are happy to eat cheese but refuse to eat veal. The male calves will be killed whether they're eaten or not so I don't understand their argument.

Sharon J said...

Good point, Pat. I'll have to ask my daughter's veggie friend about that next time I see her.