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When male dairy cows are born, most of them become veal calves because they obviously cannot produce milk. The hundreds of thousands of calves slaughtered for their veal each year are by-products of the dairy industry, which is growing in Canada and especially in Ontario and Quebec.
Approximately one third of veal calves in Canada are “milk-fed” according to industry standards; however, the liquid they are fed is not actually milk but a milk substitute formula. Since the calves are removed from their mothers within the first few days of being born, they do not have the opportunity to suckle from her.
The formula fed to the calves is sometimes lacking in iron, causing anemia and producing the pale flesh used in gourmet meals.
Most calves in factory farms are kept in veal crates in barns. The crates are 2 feet wide and provide enough room for them to stand or lie down. They are sometimes chained or tethered at the neck to restrict their movement. The lack of exercise means that muscle can’t develop, producing the tender meat that consumers enjoy.
Although confinement is economically beneficial to farmers, it causes various health problems including leg and joint disorders, indigestion, diarrhea, muscle atrophy, chronic pneumonia, and wounds from rubbing against the crate.
Confined to the barns, these calves are given no exercise, maternal care, contact with other calves, or exposure to sunlight.
After four months, calves are slaughtered for their meat. Some, known as “bob veal,” are slaughtered when only a few days old.
Group housing is used on some farms – particularly smaller farms – and is a humane alternative to veal crates, but the process is not ideal as calves are still separated from their mothers at a young age.
The European Union has developed dietary and living requirements for veal calves and are phasing out veal crates so they will be illegal by 2007.Print this page