In order for a dairy cow to produce milk, she must give birth to a calf. While most female calves are kept with the herd to be used for milk once they are mature, male calves typically are separated out to supply the veal industry. Right after a dairy cow gives birth to her calf, farmers take the calf away from his or her mother. In the case of a male calf used for veal, he is typically confined in a small, solitary stall for 16 to 18 weeks until slaughter.
The approximately 700,000 calves killed for veal in the United States each year are deprived of nearly all emotional and physical comfort. They have no interaction with their mothers or other cows, have severely restricted movement, are fed only a compromised liquid diet, and are purposefully kept anemic and weak in order to yield tender, pale meat. A young calf is prevented from the early developmental experiences (e.g., exploring, exercising, grooming) that provide the foundation for physical and mental health. As a result, they suffer from stress and disease during their shortened lives.
Unfortunately, there is little financial incentive to improve veal calf welfare, as the pale meat favored by many chefs comes not from healthy calves but rather from weak, deprived ones.
The welfare of veal calves is so poor that high-welfare certification programs such as Animal Welfare Approved do not certify any veal. From the perspective of those who consider animal welfare an important consideration when farming, “high-welfare” veal is simply not possible to produce.
Learn more about the problems associated with raising calves in veal crates by reading the fact sheet from our Inhumane Practices section.