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The Truth About Veal

Updated on November 22, 2010

Do you enjoy eating veal? What do you really know about it? I don’t eat veal because I’ve seen firsthand how these calves are treated. It’s a deplorable practice, and when you see it in person, it has a much more powerful impact than seeing it on some TV documentary.

My ex-husband worked at a dairy when we were both in college, and I saw the veal calves many times. Most veal calves are males born to dairy cows. The females are raised to produce milk, but the males aren’t needed, other than the tiny fraction kept as bulls for breeding purposes, so they end up as veal.

These calves were taken from their mothers just a few hours after birth. They were then chained by the neck in small, dark crates. They were fed only milk or milk replacer. They were never allowed to run, to play, to feel the comfort of their mother beside them, or to even see the sunlight. In fact, they were barely able to move. Why? Because the producer didn’t want the calf to develop any muscle, so that its meat would be extremely tender.

I don’t always agree with the actions of animal rights activists, but in the case of veal, these groups were on target. They made the public aware of such practices in the 1980s, and the demand for veal plummeted as a result. The veal market has never recovered.

After more investigations prompted by undercover humane society checks, atrocities in veal slaughterhouses were discovered. One such “organic” plant in Vermont that handled bob veal was closed down. Bob veal comes from calves that are only a few days old when they’re slaughtered. At the plant mentioned, these tiny calves were kicked, dragged, and electrically shocked for the amusement of the workers. Some of the poor animals were even skinned alive. The USDA and the Vermont Agriculture Agency shut down the plant in November, 2009, thanks to humane society checks and their resulting investigations.

Even if none of this cruelty concerns you, the health of you and your family should. Most veal calves are fed and given huge amounts of drugs to keep them alive and to make them gain weight. Such drugs are required because the calves are forced to live in a totally unnatural state. The vealers are under constant stress because of this, and stress brings on a number of health problems. Most of the drugs are in the antibiotic and hormone categories. Even the USDA admits that the illegal use of drugs is rampant in the veal industry. In fact, about 90% of veal calves in the U.S. are fed synthetic testosterone illegally. Is this really what you want to feed your family?

The public has expressed outrage at the conditions of veal calves, forcing producers to listen. In 1990, the use of veal crates was banned in the United Kingdom, and in 2007, the rest of the European Union followed suit. The U.S. is slowly catching on. Several states have already passed legislation that phases out veal crates in 2011-2013.

In addition, free-range veal is being produced by Strauss Brands. In this case, the calves are allowed to stay with their mothers in a grassy pasture until they’re slaughtered. They feed at will on their mother’s milk and graze on green grass. These calves aren’t fed antibiotics and hormones, and the meat is lower in fat. The calves actually get to be calves for a few months before being killed. Consumers like this method of raising veal, and the demand for free-raised veal is rising sharply.

I’m not a vegetarian. I eat meat. I strongly believe, however, that we owe it to meat animals to at least give them some quality of life before “harvesting” them. I’ve raised cattle, pigs, and chickens, and all our animals were free range. They had large green pastures with shade trees, ponds, and streams. They weren’t crowded into feed lots or fed a host of chemicals. They were allowed to mingle with others of their kind. They at least had a little happiness before they made the ultimate sacrifice to fulfill our desire for flesh.

Much of the beef raised in the South experience this same type of living conditions. For example, fellow hubber Randy Godwin raises cattle on his family farm in South Georgia. His cows, like ours did, have large grassy pastures and wooded areas to roam freely. In the hot Georgia summers, the cows even have a couple of ponds in which they can take a refreshing dip – and they do! Randy doesn’t give his cattle antibiotics or steroids, either, to make them grow faster or as a preventive measure. They don’t need them. They get plenty of fresh air, sunshine, and quality feed, and they aren’t under stress by being forced to live in an unnatural environment.

The next time you get a craving for veal cutlet or veal parmesan, think about all the suffering that went into producing that little package.

 

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    • Shalini Kagal profile image

      Shalini Kagal 7 years ago from India

      The horror of what veal used to be - I could never, ever eat it. I'm so glad things are changing and this cruel practice is being stopped. I hope the cattle and poultry we raise stop being so cruel too!

    • carolina muscle profile image

      carolina muscle 7 years ago from Charlotte, North Carolina

      I'm not crazy about it either... it seems unnecessarily cruel and inhumane. Fine post, Habee.

    • Veronica Allen profile image

      Veronica Allen 7 years ago from Georgia

      I've never eaten veal before, but I'll definetly refrain from it due to how it's obtained. I was not aware of this. Thank you for bringing this to our attention.

    • Hello, hello, profile image

      Hello, hello, 7 years ago from London, UK

      And what it boils down to, all for dirty money. It is disgusting what people are able to do/ Thank you for your eye-opener.

    • Madison22 profile image

      Madison 7 years ago from NYC

      I never ate veal either and now I am completely turned off to it. How can a human being treat anyone or anything this way is very sad. This hub certainly left an impression on me. Habee, thank you for your efforts and the awareness of this issue:)

    • DeBorrah K. Ogans profile image

      DeBorrah K Ogans 7 years ago

      Habee, This is very informative! What an eye opener, this makes me squeamish about veal parmesan and veal cutlets... Thank you for sharing, In Hs Love, Blessings!

    • breakfastpop profile image

      breakfastpop 7 years ago

      I stopped eating veal a long time ago when I found out how the calves were treated.

    • nancy_30 profile image

      nancy_30 7 years ago from Georgia

      Thank you for this very informative hub. I've also never ate veal and after reading this I won't. I never knew the baby cows were treated so bad.

    • daisyjae profile image

      daisyjae 7 years ago from Canada

      I've never had veal before and now I never will. That is so sad.

    • Ann Nonymous profile image

      Ann Nonymous 7 years ago from Virginia

      Like you I am not a vegetarian, but I always thought it was terrible how they "grow" veal...Excellent hub, Habee!

    • sheila b. profile image

      sheila b. 7 years ago

      I agree with all you said. The humane society does a good job to stop these practices. (On the other hand, PETA is just out for money and publicity. They're nuts!)

    • Sally's Trove profile image

      Sherri 7 years ago from Southeastern Pennsylvania

      Commercial veal production, like the commercial production of chickens, cows, pigs, and every other kind of meat, fish, and poultry we consume in this country has been inhumane in the past and in some areas continues to be.

      However, in addition to phasing out veal crates, there has been remarkable work done by Temple Grandin in bringing humane measures to commercial slaughter.

      http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Temple_Grandin

      I wrote a tongue in cheek Hub about how to feed a baby cow. This baby cow I wrote about turned into 30 pounds or so of freshly packed veal. It had a good life with its mother and with the people on the farm for a few weeks before it was turned into human food.

      Inhumanity toward animals is the same as inhumanity toward humans. There's much that needs to be taught here.

      Thanks for doing your part to improve the way animals destined for food are handled.

    • dohn121 profile image

      dohn121 7 years ago from Hudson Valley, New York

      What a great expose you did on how veal is made/obtained. I really am an animal lover and know that such horrific and cruel acts against these animals will not go unpunished. Thank you for sharing this with all of us, habee.

    • Pamela99 profile image

      Pamela Oglesby 7 years ago from United States

      Habee, I hate to hear about cruelty to animals. I have eaten veal a few decades ago but not recently. I am not a vegetarian but I don't eat much meat. I try to buy free range chickens when I can. Very good hub.

    • akirchner profile image

      Audrey Kirchner 7 years ago from Central Oregon

      Now I truly do feel badly about my veal stew recipe. I think I'd better change it to beef - or better yet veggie burger....they don't kill any animals do they to make vegetable protein? This is the part that always crosses me up - I love meat and cooking (NO KIDDING) but I hate thinking about where it came from. I pretend when I'm in the supermarket that all the things in the packages just died of 'natural causes'....sure. Great information as usual!

    • Angela Blair profile image

      Angela Blair 7 years ago from Central Texas

      Great Hub, Habee -- I knew where veal came from but didn't realize it was such a cruel industry. It's pretty much the same with the folks that raise chickens for grocery stores -- hard to even think about. Best, Sis

    • quildon profile image

      Angela Joseph 7 years ago from Florida

      Hi habee, Another great post. Veal used to be one of my favorite meats, but I stopped eating meat about three years ago for the very reasons you mentioned in your post. It's not just the cows but chickens as well. Chickens are raised in small, confined spaces and even given anti biotics! It's awful.

    • habee profile image
      Author

      Holle Abee 7 years ago from Georgia

      Shalini, I think things are getting better overall, but we have a long way to go.

    • profile image

      Lorid 7 years ago

      Habee -

      Thank you for your nod of support to Strauss Brands, and our Free Raised veal program. We also believe that if an animal makes the ultimate sacrifice for our nourishment, we owe it to them to provide the highest quality existance during their lifetime. That is why our Free Raised calves are pasture raised in the same manner veal was for centuries (aka 'fatted calf'). By letting mother nature raise a veal calf - our veal is is not only ethically raised - it provides a healthy & nourishing protoen for our bodies.

      It is important to consider the true age of veal when making your protein choices. Contrary to popular opinion, Free Raised veal calves are actually 500 lbs or 6 mos old at market time. The only protein older than Free Raised veal that most American's will eat is lamb and beef.

      Free Raised is available at selected Whole Foods Markets nationwide. You can learn more about our company and our philosophy at www.freeraised.com

      Sincerely,

      Lori Dunn

      Exec. Director Animal Compassion & Pasture Raised Programs,

      Strauss Brnds

    • ehern33 profile image

      ehern33 7 years ago

      Excellent hub and thanks for bringing this to our attention. I haven't had veal in more than a decade. I am glad the US is starting to change the manner these animals are treated.

    • LadySeren profile image

      LadySeren 7 years ago from UK

      Great hub Habee and it's great to hear that the US is starting to phase out veal crates too.

    • nadp profile image

      nadp 7 years ago from WEST PALM BEACH, FLORIDA

      I was cringing the whole time I read this. It sounds so horrible. I haven't eaten veal in a long time, but now if I do I'll definitely look for free-range. Thanks for sharing the information.

    • habee profile image
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      Holle Abee 7 years ago from Georgia

      Why, thank you, Chris. Good to see ya!

    • habee profile image
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      Holle Abee 7 years ago from Georgia

      Thanks for reading, Veronica!

    • habee profile image
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      Holle Abee 7 years ago from Georgia

      Hi, HH! Yep, it's all about the money.

    • habee profile image
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      Holle Abee 7 years ago from Georgia

      Madison, thanks for your support!

    • habee profile image
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      Holle Abee 7 years ago from Georgia

      Hi, Deb Thanks for visiting!

    • habee profile image
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      Holle Abee 7 years ago from Georgia

      Bpop, I've never really liked the taste of veal.

    • habee profile image
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      Holle Abee 7 years ago from Georgia

      Hi, Nancy. Always good to hear from you!

    • habee profile image
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      Holle Abee 7 years ago from Georgia

      Hi, Daisy. Many folks love veal, and I don't have a prob when it's raised the way Strauss does it.

    • habee profile image
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      Holle Abee 7 years ago from Georgia

      Thanks, Ann. Glad we agree!

    • Faybe Bay profile image

      Faye Constantino 7 years ago from Florida

      This is why I eat chicken parmagiane instead of veal. My mom told me all this when I was little. She hated the thought of those poor animals. Thank you Habee for writing this.

    • Naomi R. Cox profile image

      Naomi R. Cox 7 years ago from Elberton, Georgia

      I've never eaten veal, I just couldn't. Knowning that the meat was from baby calves. Habee, thank you for sharing this very informative hub with us. Keep up the great work!

    • ethel smith profile image

      Eileen Kersey 7 years ago from Kingston-Upon-Hull

      I have never tried veal and have no intention of ever doing so. Neither do I eat pate which has been made from geese which have been force fed until their livers are swollen painfully. They have an awful spout that is shoved down their throats. Habee do you think you could do a hub? It is pate de foie gras.

    • habee profile image
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      Holle Abee 7 years ago from Georgia

      Thanks for reading, Sheila!

    • habee profile image
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      Holle Abee 7 years ago from Georgia

      Sally, thanks for the link. Sounds like she's doing good work!

    • habee profile image
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      Holle Abee 7 years ago from Georgia

      I agree, Dohn. Karma will bite you in the butt!

    • habee profile image
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      Holle Abee 7 years ago from Georgia

      Good for you, Pamela!

    • habee profile image
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      Holle Abee 7 years ago from Georgia

      Yeah, Audrey, I think most people don't like to think about where our food comes from!

    • habee profile image
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      Holle Abee 7 years ago from Georgia

      Hi, Sis! Always good to see you!

    • habee profile image
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      Holle Abee 7 years ago from Georgia

      Quildon, I know! I wonder how some folks can take delight in torturing animals.

    • habee profile image
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      Holle Abee 7 years ago from Georgia

      Lorid, thanks so much for reading and commenting. I applaud your efforts to make the treatment of veal calves more humane!

    • habee profile image
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      Holle Abee 7 years ago from Georgia

      Me, too, Ehern. Thanks for stopping by!

    • habee profile image
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      Holle Abee 7 years ago from Georgia

      Yes, LadySeren, seems like the US is a little slow, but maybe we're finally getting it right.

    • habee profile image
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      Holle Abee 7 years ago from Georgia

      Nadp, if everyone buys only free-range veal, like that produced by Strauss, other producers will be forced out of business or forced to change their ways!

    • habee profile image
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      Holle Abee 7 years ago from Georgia

      Faybe Bay, good for your mom - a smart lady!

    • habee profile image
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      Holle Abee 7 years ago from Georgia

      Naomi, thanks so much for reading!

    • habee profile image
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      Holle Abee 7 years ago from Georgia

      I'll check that out, Ethel!

    • Michael Shane profile image

      Michael Shane 7 years ago from Gadsden, Alabama

      I agree with Carolina Muscle on this one! Great Hub Habee!

    • Granny's House profile image

      Granny's House 7 years ago from Older and Hopefully Wiser Time

      Another great hub! you go girl

    • jiberish profile image

      jiberish 7 years ago from florida

      When I was growing up we had veal regularly, but then I read an article about the conditions and couldn't stomach it. The sad truth is that I visited a chicken farm where chickens were raised for Campbel Soups, and could never eat that either. If you saw how they make some of the foods we eat, you would think twice about eating. LOL. Good hub!

    • profile image

      AARON99 7 years ago

      A very informative hub. Keep it up.

    • habee profile image
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      Holle Abee 7 years ago from Georgia

      Thanks, Shane. Nice of you to visit!

    • habee profile image
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      Holle Abee 7 years ago from Georgia

      Thanks, Granny. How ya been?

    • habee profile image
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      Holle Abee 7 years ago from Georgia

      You're right, Jib. Most people are so far removed from our food chain that they don't know what's really going on.

    • habee profile image
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      Holle Abee 7 years ago from Georgia

      Thank you, Aaron!

    • Sandyspider profile image

      Sandy Mertens 7 years ago from Wisconsin, USA

      I would never eat veal. I'm not a vegetarian but I do believe in better animal treatment. Cows and especially their calves are probably the worse treated of all animals.

    • habee profile image
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      Holle Abee 7 years ago from Georgia

      Sandy, pigs are also treated very cruelly. Chickens, too. They all suffer at our hands.

    • Nemingha profile image

      Nemingha 7 years ago

      I'm not a vegetarian but I seldom eat meat and stick to a mostly vegetarian diet. Poor calves!

    • habee profile image
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      Holle Abee 7 years ago from Georgia

      Nemi, I'm trying to eat less meat and more fish. Thanks for reading!

    • saddlerider1 profile image

      saddlerider1 6 years ago

      This is a classic case of ultimate sadistic torture to animals. When will it stop? I commend the many groups in our society who are working day and night to end this madness. Thank you for bringing this useless slaughter of babies. One wonders why there are so many more vegetarians in our world, with the antibiotics that are injected into these poor animals and how they are treated in slaughter houses around the world, giving up on meat and poultry unless organically raised is a good choice by many. The owners of these plants don't care about our health, they only are concerned about the almighty $$$$$$$$$'s they rake in regardless of the methods they employ to do it.

    • habee profile image
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      Holle Abee 6 years ago from Georgia

      I agree, Saddlerider. How do such people sleep at night? Many US consumers are so far removed from the farms and feedlots they never consider what goes into producing the meat they eat. Thanks for reading and commenting!

    • Pollyannalana profile image

      Pollyannalana 6 years ago from US

      This is horrible. I have almost 100% gone off all beef after the mad cow thing and not knowing that the cows are given but I never dreamed of anything like this. Thank you for making us aware, I will not forget it you can be sure. Great hub, thx for sharing your knowledge on this.

    • habee profile image
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      Holle Abee 6 years ago from Georgia

      Thanks for reading, Polly!

    • Springboard profile image

      Springboard 6 years ago from Wisconsin

      One thing I have always been a strong proponent of is treating ALL animals with dignity and respect. I know that sometimes meets with a strange look when you think, I'll treat you with respect right before I eat you...

      But, I think when we are in a society where meat food is processed for us, and harvested for us to eat, where we no longer get it for ourselves, we have to have a humane and dignified approach to it. We have to have some heart and conscience about it.

      Even a truck I used to see on the highway all the time headed to the slaughterhouse in Milwaukee which had the words "Their last ride" on the back doors I thought to be a little disheartening.

      Great hub.

    • habee profile image
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      Holle Abee 6 years ago from Georgia

      I agree, Jim. I eat meat, but I believe the animals should have some quality of life before they're killed. And they should be killed as quickly and humanely as possible.

    • 50 Caliber profile image

      50 Caliber 6 years ago from Arizona

      Holle, again never had it and now, never will. Venison and Elk or my favorite, Antelope are so tender when cooked correctly I find no need for beef of any sort, 50

    • habee profile image
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      Holle Abee 6 years ago from Georgia

      50, I didn't like the taste of veal even before I learned about how the animals were treated. I like venison, though!

    • profile image

      nitebrain 6 years ago

      I don't understand why everyone is upset about this. While it seems cruel, what about the cruelty of the animal losing its life? That is ultimate cruelty. It is not just loss, it is 100% total loss.

      What difference does it make how many pastures they get to run around in? Now I don't agree with drugs and steroids and hormones being used, I don't understand why people can get mad if an animal is kicked, but have no problem if its head is cut off.

      Either we think we are better then the non-human animals (i.e. we think it is okay to kill and eat them) or we don't.

      It is like the old Dolphin-safe tuna argument. What about Tuna-safe dolphin? Which ones get to die? Why save the whales? Why can't we eat dogs and horses?

      These laws and emotions that occur as a result are completely illogical and ridiculous. To me anyway.

      Thanks for the informative story.

    • habee profile image
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      Holle Abee 6 years ago from Georgia

      Nite, I think we owe animals some quality of life and to kill them as quickly and painlessly as possible when the time comes.

    • profile image

      Jack 6 years ago

      I'm not trying to start an argument, I really am asking a legitimate question. If all of these things happen almost immediately after the calf is born, does it really know the difference since it's never known anything else?

    • habee profile image
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      Holle Abee 6 years ago from Georgia

      Jack, I don't think any creature finds it natural to be kept in darkness, chained, and crammed in a cage. Cattle are instinctively herd animals that need to be with others of their kind.

    • profile image

      Alexis 5 years ago

      Hello!

      I am a vegan and a huge animal rights activist. But also as a person who understands biology and the life cycle. I understand some peoples need to eat meat, because just like in the wild other animals eat other animals. The only reason why humans eat animals is due to the canine teeth (tearing teeth) in our mouths. Otherwise, humans would have a difficult time eating meat. But I love how you make your meat "cruelty free". And I agree i don't always agree with all animal rights activist, but i am an extremist though. But i know what's ok and what's not. Like humane animal food consumption is ok with me.

    • profile image

      Pete 5 years ago

      I wish I could eat veal everyday. Veal sandwiches are delicious. Go home you animal loving losers. This is how life works. Somebody has to die. And everything dies for a reason! I am Italian and I have probably eaten at least 50 little ugly baby calves on my own :)

    • profile image

      Valerie Avent 5 years ago

      I know veal is young meat.I do not eat veal or meat.A bit of fish which i may give up too.Stop.Do not eat veal.PLEASE.Val

    • profile image

      shikaote 5 years ago

      After that first paragraph I started agreeing with you but before that I thought you were just another one lol. I do agree that we should provide animals a better environment before we EAT them, but, please bear in mind that the veals aren't the only ones "seperated from their mothers" or some other lenient crap like that. And I don't eat them because I have to, a vegan lifestyle is healthier according to what i've heard.

      I EAT them because I WANT to.

    • profile image

      nihal 5 years ago

      this is just plain wrong. the whole industry fails on ethics

    • profile image

      Drew 5 years ago

      Wow...while arguing with my wife that the stories she had heard could not be true in the us I decided to do some internet research. I, too, will not buy veal based on this testimony given here. Thank you for sharing.

    • profile image

      Steven Schwartz 4 years ago

      People can help stop cruel animal-raising practices by eating humanely-raised veal. Spending your dollars rewards farmers to do it right and makes it possible to run a farm business. Stopping eating meat only perpetuate the inhumane practices rather than helping support alternatives.

    • profile image

      angie 4 years ago

      i could never eat veal its so cruel barbaric these people who do this are sick and need help i get by without meat and proud to be vegan

    • profile image

      rose veal 4 years ago

      stop classing veal there are two clear differences rose veal and white veal. What you need to make clear is the issues which are about white veal! Rose veal is treated differently, don't say you wont eat rose veal as you are missing out. Also like to highlight that male calves are being shot 24 hours after birth anyway which also tragic so why don't you right support for rose veal as classing it as 'veal' not stipulating the type as white veal, is creating the wrong effect and gullible people are stopping from eating it due to issues which are in Europe, instead support rose veal.

    • profile image

      Obama Supporter 4 years ago

      Veal is delicious. My children raise and slaughter their own calves a few times a year. I don't judge you, please don't judge me. If you don't like something, it's fine not to participate, but don't force your beliefs on others. When you do that, you are no better than Hitler or Stalin. Do you know who those people were, Habee?

    • MissJamieD profile image

      MissJamieD 4 years ago from Minnes-O-ta

      It's disgusting how people have no heart whatsoever, in fact gain happiness, from such horrid acts. I'm so happy to say that I am not an evil person as so many are these days. Thanks for bringing this to light as well as the horst slaughtering. Such a disgrace. Great hub!

    • profile image

      Alu 3 years ago

      Just eat it...

      Like a Bear would't think twice eat you, just becouse you had a harsh life before u meet him. lol

    • profile image

      Alu 3 years ago

      Actauly, you should eat him, so that his life was really worthy for something.

    • profile image

      Alu 3 years ago

      Instted let his meat routt, and make all his suffer and bad treatments during all its life, good for nothing.

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