Thursday, April 07, 2005

Is It Veal-ly That Bad?

I have generally avoided eating veal for years, so as not to support inhumane farming practices, but I eat other meats, while knowing that those animals aren't treated that well either. Are calves destined for veal (the male calves of dairy cows) treated worse than chickens, pigs, lamb, and turkeys that are slaughtered for meat? A quick internet search only yields highly-biased propoganda on both sides of the fence. What are the thoughts of all the foodies out there? Veal is easily found in the fine restaurants of Vancouver. Parkside even specified "milk-fed veal" unabashedly on their menu. These are calves that have been fed a low-iron milk substitute rather than their mother's milk, so that their flesh is lighter in colour and more tender. In other words, they are made to be almost anemic so that they taste better. Who eats veal out there, and who doesn't? And can anyone direct me to a balanced and reputable discussion of the issue?


kolibri said...

Personally I don't eat any meat that doesn't come from organic farmer, or non-farmed fish. It's not easy to find the meat and it's not cheap - but that's the ethical decision I've made. My favourite places to go to are Capers for chicken and turkey, and Granville Island for beef (I can't remember the name of the shop that sells only organic beef). Lamb and bison should be good pretty much everywhere as they're never grown in masses anyway.

It's not perfect here, situation was much better in Europe where I used to live - but this is the closest I can get to ethical food. I wasn't really aware of treatment of calves - my understanding has always been that chickens are the worst victims as they are grown in cages without having any natural behaviours allowed (starting from natural sunlight!)... But it's pretty much same with pork I believe, or any other farming animals.

Good luck with your quest, I salute you for bringing this up and at least thinking about it.

Linda said...

I asked a chef about this once and he told me that Veal isn't treated the way it used to be. i am not sure if it has changed my mind on the whole veal issue, but I woudl be interested to here what really happens now.

Dumpling_Girl said...

Thank you both for your comments! One additional point I wanted to bring up is the consideration of how a particular animal experiences whatever conditions are imposed on them. While I don't want even a "dumber" animal to be distressed, it's still probable that a more intelligent animal would get more distressed than a less intelligent animal subjected to the same conditions (such as restricted movement). For example, I know that pigs are highly intelligent, maybe with higher cognitive abilities than dogs...damnit, why do they have to be so tasty!?

Elaine said...

I don't eat veal mainly because of the way they are treated. Kolibri is right that chickens are treated pretty badly, but so are many animals that are raised for human consumption.

I have to give kudos to Kolibri for purchasing ethically. I only purchase wild fish (salmon mostly), have started to buy free range eggs, and try to buy organic meat when I can. Hopefully more options will be available in other markets around town.

One thing I'm not clear on is whether "organic meat" only refers to the food that the animals are fed, or whether it also refers to the way the animals are raised. How would we know?

I'm all for eating ethically, but I'm not disciplined enough to go vegetarian. /any other suggestions?

halv said...

For Elaine...I used to say the same thing, that I wasn't disciplined enough to go vegetarian. But after 28 years of eating meat I just passed 5 years of vegetarian and 2 years of being vegan. I can honestly say I've never made a better choice in my life. Not only am I healthier, but I can eat knowing that no other animal had to die or suffer just because I like how they taste.
I applaud any meat eater who chooses to buy certifed organic as the animals do often have a better life and are fed a natural diet. But to truly avoid inflicting terrible stress and pain the best way to go is vegetarian. There may be humane living conditions on some organic farms, but there is certainly nothing humane in how the animals are slaughtered.
From first hand knowledge I can tell you that veal calves are not treated any better than they used to be. They are still taken from their mothers at a very young age, crated and chained to limit movement, and fed an anemic diet. The dairy industry is the main reason veal even exists. Male calves are useless on a dairy farm.