Dairy and Veal: A Cow's Life
Traditional small dairies, located primarily in the Northeast and Midwest are going out of business. They are being replaced by intensive 'dry lot' dairies which are typically located in the Southwest.
Regardless of where they live, however, all dairy cows must give birth in order to begin producing milk. Today, dairy cows are forced to have a calf every year. Calves born on dairy farms are taken from their mothers when they are just one day old and fed milk replacers so that humans can have the milk instead. Like human beings, the cow's gestation period is nine months long, and so giving birth every twelve months is physically demanding. The cows are also forced to give milk during seven months of their nine month pregnancy. In a healthy environment, cows would live in excess of 25 years, but on modern dairies, they are slaughtered after just 3 or 4 years and then used for ground beef.
With genetic manipulation and intensive production technologies, it is common for modern dairy cows to produce 100 pounds of milk a day -- ten times more than they would produce in nature. The cows' bodies are under constant stress and they are at risk for numerous health problems.
Approximately half of the country's dairy cows suffer from mastitis, a bacterial infection of their udders. This is such a common and costly ailment that a dairy industry group, the National Mastitis Council, was formed specifically to combat the disease. Other diseases, such as Bovine Leukemia Virus, Bovine Immunodeficiency Virus, and Johne's disease (whose human counterpart is Crohn's disease), are also rampant on modern dairies, but they are difficult to detect or have a long incubation period, and they commonly go unnoticed.
A cow eating a normal grass diet could not produce milk at the abnormal levels expected on modern dairies, and so today's dairy cows must be given high energy feeds. The unnaturally rich diet causes metabolic disorders including ketosis, which can be fatal, and laminitis, which causes lameness.
Another dairy industry disease caused by intensive milk production is "Milk Fever". This ailment is caused by calcium deficiency, and it occurs when milk secretion uses calcium faster than it can be replenished in the blood.
Although the dairy industry is familiar with the cows' health problems and suffering associated with intensive milk production, it continues to subject cows to even worse abuses in the name of increased profit. Bovine Growth Hormone (BGH), a synthetic hormone, is now being injected into cows to get them to produce even more milk. Besides adversely affecting the cows' health, BGH also increases birth defects in their calves.
Veal is a by-product of the dairy industry. In order for dairy cows to produce milk, they must be impregnated and give birth. Half of the calves born are female, and they are used to replace older cows in the milking herd.
The other half are male, and because they are of no use to the dairy industry, most are used for beef or veal. "Metaphorically," says Dr. Steven Gross, "there is a hunk of veal in every glass of milk."
Within moments of birth, male calves born on dairies are taken away from their mothers and loaded onto trucks. Many are sold through auction rings where they are subjected to transportation and handling stresses. The fragile animals are shocked and kicked, and when they can no longer walk, they are dragged by their legs or even their ears.
Every year, approximately one million calves are confined in crates measuring just two feet wide. They are chained by the neck to restrict all movement, making it impossible for them to turn around, stretch, or even lie down comfortably. This severe confinement makes the calves' meat "tender" since the animals' muscles cannot develop.
Published scientific research indicates that calves confined in crates experience "chronic stress" and require approximately five times more medication than calves living in more spacious conditions. It is not surprising then that veal is among the most likely meat to contain illegal drug residues which pose a threat to human health.
Researchers have also reported that calves confined in crates exhibit abnormal coping behaviors associated with frustration. These include head tossing, head shaking, kicking, scratching, and stereotypical chewing behavior. Confined calves also experience leg and joint disorders and an impaired ability to walk. As author John Robbins notes, “The veal calf would actually have more space if, instead of chaining him in such a stall, you stuffed him into the trunk of a subcompact car and kept him there for his entire life.”
In addition to restricting the animals' movement, veal producers severely limit what their animals can eat. The calves are fed an all liquid milk-substitute which is purposely deficient in iron and fiber. It is intended to produce borderline anemia and the pale colored flesh fancied by "gourmets". At approximately sixteen weeks of age, these weak animals are slaughtered and marketed as "white" veal (also known as "fancy", "milk-fed", "special fed", and "formula fed" veal). Besides the expensive veal which comes from calves who are kept in small wooden crates, "bob" veal is the flesh of calves who may be slaughtered at just a few hours or days old. While these calves are spared intensive confinement, they are still subjected to inhumane transport, handling, and slaughter, and many die before reaching the slaughterhouse.
Some of this information is courtesy of Mercy For Animals.
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