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Veal: A Byproduct of the Cruel Dairy Industry

Cows produce milk for the same reason why 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 end up in veal crates―a fate characterized by 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 on the same day that 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 distress, and cows have been known to escape enclosures and travel for miles to reunite with their young.

Small Stalls and No Exercise
Calves raised for veal 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 forms of 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 got 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.

What You Can Do
Veal crates have been prohibited in Britain since 1990, and they were phased out of all European Union member countries by 2007.(10) 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.(11) Ask your state legislators to follow the example of Arizona and Colorado, which have banned veal crates, by sponsoring bills that would prohibit them.(12)

In addition to refusing to eat veal, avoid all dairy products—calves raised for veal are a “coproduct” of the dairy industry. Try fortified soy, almond, oat, and rice milks, all of which provide calcium, vitamins, iron, zinc, and protein but contain no cholesterol. They are perfect for cereal, soups, baked goods, and other recipes. Many delicious dairy alternatives—including Rice Dream, So Delicious, Purely Decadent, and Tofutti brand nondairy ice creams as well as nondairy cheeses, sour cream, and creamers—are available in health-food and grocery stores.

Veganism means eating for life—yours and animals’. Go to for great recipes, nutritional information, cooking and shopping tips, and to order a free copy of PETA’s vegetarian/vegan 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) Stephanie Simon, “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): 1697-703.
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) American Veterinary Medical Association, “Veal Association Recommends Group Housing,” Journal of the American Veterinary Medical Association, 15 Sep. 2007.
11) Martin Hickman, “The Appeal of Veal,” The Independent 2 Sep. 2006.
12) ThePigSite, “Colorado Commended for Banning Farm Confinement Systems,”, 15 May 2008.

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