Thursday, March 17, 2011

163. End the suffering; boycott veal

Veal has always tested the ethical boundaries of meat production, so much so that even many adamant meat-eaters will not consume it.

To tell the story once more, veal calves are the product of the dairy industry in which predominantly male calves are raised and slaughtered at a very young age for their meat. These calves are the offspring of dairy cows, which must be continuously bred in order to be lactating (produce milk). While the female calves often become dairy cows themselves, the males are usually destined for a short stay on a veal farm.

What is offensive to many consumers is not just the young age in which the claves are slaughtered (usually 16-20 weeks), but also how they live their short lives. Veal calves can live up to ten weeks of their lives in veal crates so small that they cannot even turn around. One reason this method is imposed is to restrict movement, so that muscle does not develop--keeping the meat tender. Amazingly, much of the public remained unaware of these conditions until the 1980s when pictures first surfaced showing veal calves tethered in crates. This awareness decreased consumption, but did not change the unethical treatment of calves.

In 2009, Ohio voters installed an Ohio Livestock Standards Care Board to "create state standards for the care and well-being of livestock in Ohio." As I have mentioned several times, this is a fallacy and the Board was in fact created to preempt animal welfare groups from setting humane farming standards--securing farming profits based on economical rather than the ethical treatment of farm animals. The plan failed when Ohioans for Humane Farms collected enough signatures to put potential anti-factory farming laws on the ballot. In response, the Humane Society of the United States (HSUS) and the Ohio Farm Bureau (OFB) settled on a number of standards to be jointly recommended to the Board.

The Board has adhered to all of the recommendations--until now. One of the recommendations made to the Board, and part of the joint agreement, was that veal crates would be banned by 2017. The Board, seemingly influenced by a small number of veal farmers, and despite a large amount of evidence to the contrary, has now provisionally voted 6-5 to ignore the agreement made by the HSUS and OFB and not ban the veal crates. Interestingly, the American Veal Association itself has announced that they plan to phase out the use of crates--recommending that the entire veal industry "convert to group housing methodology" by December 31, 2017. Something smells about this vote, and it is not just the cow dung.

The truth is that many animal advocates were not even incredibly pleased by the original agreement, because it does not help any veal calves born within the next seven years. It's like an agreement to end slavery in five years--it's great that the suffering will end, but what about those suffering now? And, it does not address the short lives of veal calves, or the despicable nature of the dairy industry.

Upon the provisional vote, the public was able to officially comment from March 2 to March 16. The final vote on the measure is scheduled for April 5-and many animal advocates will be making their way down to Columbus to express their displeasure with removing the ban on veal crates--and the disregard of the original agreement. The public can also comment directly to

However, the simpler solution-the one that does not involve meandering through the political and corporate backdrop of the Board or that does not rely on influencing an unelected Board who has no accountability to the public--is to simply stop purchasing veal. The public needs again to be made aware of what it is supporting when they purchase veal--because it only exists if we allow it to exist. If there are no consumers, there is no suffering.

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