What's the UnPETAfied life of a veal calf?

I don’t trust these animal welfare sites but am interested to know just how bad the life of a veal calf is. Anyone familiar with the conditions in which they are raised (in general)?

My uncle’s brother raises veal calves in France. The conditions there (at least when I visited the farm): the calves are kept confined in the barn, in small pens where they can’t move around too much. When their mothers come in from pasture, they are let out to find the appropriate set of teats and feed. After that I’m pretty sure it’s back into the pen, and so on and on until it’s time to slaughter them.

Keep in mind that that was in a rather small production setting. Could be quite different elsewhere/in a higher volume environment.


Right, but even from vealfarm.com, the critical aspect to veal is that you have to restrain the cow so that its beef remains tender. Unfortunately, that still strikes me as cruel and I don’t see how one can get around it.

Easy; don’t assume that cattle feel the same way about things as you do. Just because you wouldn’t like to be confined doesn’t mean it causes them emotional distress. I wouldn’t spend ten seconds under my bed, but it’s one of my cat’s favorite places. I think it is silly to assume you know anything about the interior life of cattle. Maybe they feel safe and protected in their pens. Maybe they feel bad for those poor bastards forced to trudge around outside. I mean if you want to tap into your inner cow, be my guest, but don’t be surprised if others are reluctant to join you.

Seems easily enough to test. Take a cow and leave the door open to its pen and the barn door open to the outside and see where it prefers to be. Barring luring it with food one way or the other and understanding that, say, a rain storm may make it happier indoors you may get a clue to what the cow wants.

Granted I do not know the mind of a cow and while I may be in danger of anthropomorphising the creature I cannot imagine any living thing is happier under restriction to the point of very limited mobility than if it can move about freely (or at least in a largish enclosure). Just seems counterintuitive but I will allow that I do not know the minds of cows. Of course, I really do not know another Doper’s mind either so perhaps it is reasonable to assume, say, daffyduck would be content living out life in a 3’x6’ pen.

People seem to enjoy this very much when the TV is on , so why not cows? Maybe all we need is some cow television :smiley:

Give a dog that test; chances are it won’t want to hang out in a small kennel, either. Yet “crate training” is considered one of the best ways to raise a puppy. I know dogs who spend 4-8 hours a day (not in a row, they’re let out for 30 min or so mid-day) every day in a crate. I’m going to start calling them “Veal Dogs.”

Except that dogs are (or are decendants of) den animals, while cows are definitely not.

Yes, but that doesn’t change the fact that most dogs I know, given the chance, will not spend 4-8 hours a day in a den. Maybe they did way back when, in the wild, but I think it’s safe to say that our modern dogs have lost many of the traits they had when they weren’t domesticated.

Daffyduck nailed it. Who understands the mind of a cow? Mine are free to roam at will through whichever pasture I have opened up at the time–usually a 10 to 15 acre area. Sometimes I find them scattered about in the field, and sometimes they’ll be packed into a relatively small three-sided shed in the corral so tightly they’re just about laying on each other.

There are times I need to keep them locked up, like when I’m working on fencing or when the vet’s coming over, and it really doesn’t seem to bother them. The only time I have problems is when the cows are locked up apart from the bull, at which point they get their heads stuck in fences trying to get to him.

Also, cattle are individuals just like people are. I had a bull that was Mr. Escape Artist. It didn’t matter whether he was in a 10x10 pen or a 30-acre field. He wanted out. Now. With some of the others, I don’t think they care where they are, as long as there’s food and water.

For some reason I thought you were under the impression that dogs and cattle didn’t mind being in a cage. After a second reading I see I was wrong.

How do they “make” lamb, then? They’re surely not keeping the lambs in a pen?! Why can’t they just let the calves run free and then slaughter them? Seems to me that a calf wandering around a farmyard wouldn’t get that tough.

Hey, I’m completely naive about this stuff, I’ve never seen how calves or lambs live.

It’s my understanding that “veal” refers to a calf that’s been fed nothing but milk. I would assume letting a calf wander in the field means it could start eating grass instead of only milk. Or does a calf try to eat grass before it’s weaned?

They do grain feed lambs in a feedlot enviroment.

That’s correct. The veal is almost white because the calves are anemic. I don’t know if it’s the milk diet or the lack of exercise that produces the anemia, though. Calves do begin to nibble solids long before they’re weaned. Unless, of course, they’re confined to small cages.

Not that it’s the same thing, but when growing endive, farmers pile up dirt around the growing bud so it never sees the sun. Keeps the endive nice and white and mild tasting.

Sounds viciously cruel and unnatural to me. I’m not sure the endive likes that.


Well, I can’t pretend to know what a cow is thinking, but I’ve spent my share of time around them. Also, how things are done here is not at all like what was seen in France. What mainly makes cows happy is to be with other cows.

In the U.S. most dairy cows are pretty much left to their own devices as they are kept in free stall barns. They tend to shuffle around, eat, sleep, and get milked. If you see cows either in a free stall or on pasture, they spend very little time excercising - they mainly walk to feed and grain sources. Not very much racing around.

Newborn calves - left to their own devices in a field - tend to curl up in one place for the majority of the day. On a few occasions the cow comes by and the calves tank up (calves are designed to drink a half gallon of milk very quickly). By 2 weeks of age or so the calves start grazing and stay with the the herd more. But staying in one place is pretty much what most ruminant neonates do 23+ hours a day.

in the US - Most veal calves are dairy calf bulls - a surplus of the dairy industry. They are fed milk replacer - real milk is too expensive. They are healthiest if they can see other calves (and thus are happy that they aren’t all by themselves) but aren’t in the same pen so that they can’t beat each other up. Hence they tend to be placed in small pens. The little pens is more to economically keep large numbers of calves together and to accomodate the automatic milk delivery systems than any deliberate attempt to keep them from moving.The amount of iron in the milk replacer dictates whether they become anemic.

It’s my understanding that the meat from calves made anemic deliberately is a pretty small percent of the entire veal market and found only in very high-end places. Regular veal is pale because of the age of the animal as much as anything.

In other words- the calves aren’t being mistreated. (Other than by being slaughter at the end, of course)

It is possible that they’d be happier getting out. On the other hand, cows are simple creatures that seem to be happy as long as they are warm, shaded and well fed.

Frankly; we can’t tell which they’d prefer. They seem to be OK with life either way.