Veal production is one of the most abusive forms of animal agriculture. Male dairy calves are taken from their mothers within hours of birth, starved of essential nutrients and exercise, locked up alone and left to suffer in solitary confinement until they are sent to slaughter. These unethical practices are all farmers can profit from the demand for tender meat.
In Canada, Quebec and Ontario are the largest producers of veal because they have the majority of dairy farms in the country. Quebec produces about 220,000 veal calves per year and Ontario produces about 70,000 per year.
Male calves are useless to the dairy industry because they don’t produce milk. Taken from their mothers at birth, they are either killed or raised for veal. Expenses are the major factor affecting the decision of farmers to euthanize male calves soon after birth. Having to decide whether the cost of rearing calves to the minimum age for transport, outweighs the price being paid for calves.
Five percent of Canadian dairy farms euthanize an average of 1/5th of their male calves hours after birth. Accepted methods for euthanasia under the National Farm Animal Care Council (NFACC) codes of practice are not always performed. Seven percent of Canadian dairy farmers reported using blunt force to kill male calves. NFACC Codes of Practice for the treatment of veal calves exist, but they are completely voluntary. Canada ranks poorly in its treatment of veal calves compared to other countries.
A small number of male calves will be saved and used for breeding. When they are old enough, they will be kept in breeding units and milked for their semen. Their semen will be shipped in frozen straws to dairy farms to be used to artificially inseminate female dairy cows.
Male calves are purchased by veal farmers from dairy farms or at auctions when they are 7-10 days old and weigh about 50 kg (110 lbs). On veal farms, the calves are caged in small pens or plastic huts with a fenced area that allows just enough space for them to stand. These confined spaces keep calves from walking, running and playing, which would develop their muscles. They are also deliberately starved of essential nutrients. This is all to keep their meat tender. When sent to slaughter, their bodies are often undeveloped and weak, and some can barely walk the slaughter line.
Veal calves often suffer from painful arthritis due to limited movement, as well as respiratory diseases and ear infections that are rampant on overcrowded factory farms. Veal calves are also subjected to the painful procedure of disbudding (horn growth prevention) or dehorning. This is routine in Canada. Research shows that it is painful and stressful. Because they are unable to interact with other animals, exercise, groom themselves, suckle or explore, veal calves can develop abnormal repetitive behaviours. The distressed calves often bite at the bars of their crates, become lethargic or roll their tongues. Being separated from their mothers and severely confined, triggers this. Diarrhoea, as a result of the formula diet, causes skin rashes and burns. Diarrhoea is the most common cause of death in young calves.
After such a cruel, deprived life, the calves that survive are sent to slaughter when they are just 5 months old and often younger.