Veal Is Not a Four Letter Word


For many people, veal is associated with animal cruelty. But what should be done with all those boy calves that are a by-product of the dairy industry? Vegans have one answer and proponents of rose veal another.

The truth is that if you drink milk, you should think about what happens to the calves. You can’t have one without the other. The females can join the herd or be sold to another dairy farmer, but the herd only needs one bull and dairy breeds are generally not suitable to be raised as beef.

In parts of Europe, such as Italy and the Netherlands, people still quite happily eat “white veal” – the anemic color comes from the lack of iron in the calf’s diet. The animals are reared in horrific conditions that would be illegal in other countries, including the U.K. The babies are taken from their mother, kept in confined conditions, and fed a cocktail of formula milk and other chemicals without adequate dietary fiber.

Fortunately, there are alternatives. In the U.K. you can buy ethically raised veal under the name “rose veal” – so called because of its pink color. Instead of being put down after a few days, or sold to Europe to be raised under inhumane conditions as “white veal”, the animals are suckled by their mothers, eat grass and live for about six months – longer than most pigs. The humane standards are endorsed by the Royal Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (RSPCA).

In the U.S., similar humanely raised veal is growing in popularity. It’s sold under a variety of names – including meadow, red, rose, pastured, grass-fed, free-range and suckled. Look for the endorsement of an organization such as Humane Farm Animal Care.

The meat is still tender but it has more flavor than white veal. Many people think it actually tastes better. Certainly if you care about animal welfare, it’s in better taste.

Image: Cowboy Dave

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12 thoughts on “Veal Is Not a Four Letter Word

  1. So what should we do with the other omnivorous, or even carnivorous animals? If we don’t have a right to meat, do they not? Of course, then we’ll need birth control for all the species in the world…

  2. Gosh, there’s not much I can add to Tracy’s comments except “ditto”, ditto, and ditto over again! There’s absolutely no reason at all why we should harm any being to fatten ourselves. When stealing lives… There is wrong done to the 10 billion animals killed needlessly there; There is also equal harm in killing the “one”… Being vegan is a wonderful choice that heals so many ills.

    Want to change the world? Eat like you mean it! :)

  3. There IS no such thing as humanely raised veal. Calves are separated from their mothers so that humans can drink the milk that is rightfully the calves.
    Cows love their calves as much as humans love there babies, and the separation from them is terrible.

    The real problem is that we (humans) feel entitled to take by force what they want from the animals. We do this to the animals and to the entire ecosystem. We all need to change this outlook if we are to survive as a species and if we care about the planet we live on. Veal and milk are not necessary in our diets and cause more harm, to our health and the planets than good. If we think past our own little wants and cravings and think of the big picture, and if you do that you will realize there is no such thing as humane veal.

  4. Nice one, Caitlin.

    Yes, the eco movement is about exploring alternatives and changing habits. It’s about shades of grey – *more* humane, *more* eco-friendly. And it’s about giving people reasons to change their habits, not trying to force them into it. That’s the tone of EcoSalon, and we always welcome anyone who disagrees because, at the end of the day, there is no right or wrong way to live a life.

    And there’s certainly no eco rulebook (for which I’m very glad – because when something is unquestionably right, it’s never discussed).

  5. As the writer of the post, I feel I should respond, albeit belatedly. I believe it’s important to draw attention to the issue, offer a variety of solutions and allow readers to make up their own mind what to do. A lot of vegetarians drink milk and I believe they should consider the consequences of that – becoming vegan is an entirely valid response of course and I mention that in the post.

    Like Sara, I disagree that there is no such thing as a meat-eating environmentalist. I am not advocating meat eating over and above vegetarianism and personally I believe EcoSalon is very good at promoting vegetarian and vegan eating. I do advocate meat reduction and organic or humane (or at least MORE humane) meat over rampant consumption over factory-farmed meat. That’s not absurd at all.

    Meat production (and all food production to varying degrees) has a number of purely environmental issues associated with it aside from animal welfare, such as pollution, habitat destruction and climate change. If you want to reduce that, you need to engage the whole population and the fact is that only around 5% of the US population is vegetarian (let alone vegan).

    Not everyone is going to become vegetarian by choice, however much you might want them to. As an environmentalist, I’m focused on outcomes as much as principles and I know that getting the 95% of meat eaters to cut back and make better choices would be more effective than even doubling the 5% to 10% if the other 90% doesn’t make any change at all. For some people it’s about baby steps and we need to bring them with us.

    I’m afraid that I don’t see ethics in such absolute terms – very often in life and as environmentalists we are choosing the lesser of two evils.

    Caitlin’s last blog post..Podcast fiction for The Bookseller

  6. Hi Matt, thank you so much for sharing your views again. If you write that post I’d be happy to link to it so you get some traffic.


  7. P.S. I’m considering doing a post called “7 Most Outrageously Absurd Posts From Eco Salon”

  8. Sara, first of all, why would I “preach” to the choir? How counter-productive would that be. Does Eco Salon not hope to sway people into being more environmentally friendly? Or does Eco salon hope to only preach to the choir?

    Secondly, my phrase “gently petting animals to death” was an allegory. It was meant to point out the absurdity of saying that needlessly slaughtering animals is humane or ethical. Just because the calves are allowed to eat grass and nurse from their mothers for a little while, doesn’t mean that they don’t suffer when they are ripped away from their mothers and have their throats sliced open. The cows who have their babies taken away from them and killed also suffer emotional distress before they too are eventually “used up” and killed for their flesh.

    I don’t object to Eco Salon pointing out various ways that people can help save the planet and be ethical consumers. I do object to Eco salon using words like “ethical” or “humane” to describe something that is neither. This article explicitly states that there is nothing wrong with needlessly killing animals and that doing so can be referred to as ethical or humane. That is simply absurd. It is more absurd that such a position would be taken by a website that is supposed to be about being environmentally friendly.

    Why not promote SUV’s as environmentally friendly because they are more fuel efficient than Hummers? Because that would be absurd when you could promote bio-diesel or hybrids, or bicycles instead.

    I am sorry if my opinion upsets you or seems comical, but I feel it is much more reasonable than the make-believe position that needlessly causing animals to suffer is ethical.

    Is a vegan environmentalist who flies around the world to deliver speeches on veganism better, environmentally speaking, than someone who eats organic meat from time to time? I don’t know. But if Eco Salon does an article saying that flying around the globe to give speeches is environmentally friendly then you can bet I will have an objection.

    Is it even possible to consider oneself an environmentalist if one is a parent? After all, rearing a child, especially in the United States, has a massive carbon impact. It depends. Is the child adopted? Again, if Eco Salon does an article about how people who have 12 kids are environmentally friendly, then I’ll object to that too.

    In short, if Eco Salon is about being environmentally friendly, then you can’t go around promoting industries that needlessly destroy the environment and not expect to be called absurd.

  9. I don’t recall anyone ever stating that animals were being gently petted to death. (And we have promoted soy, as well as hemp, as well as vegetarianism and vegetarian sources of protein, many times). But I refuse to take a vegetarian or vegan-only stance on this site. You’re welcome to your exclusive views and there are plenty of choirs you can preach to. But your statement that a person cannot be an environmentalist and eat meat is incorrect.

    Is a vegan environmentalist who flies around the world to deliver speeches on veganism better, environmentally speaking, than someone who eats organic meat from time to time? Is it even possible to consider oneself an environmentalist if one is a parent? After all, rearing a child, especially in the United States, has a massive carbon impact.

    I’m sorry if exploring issues you feel so convicted about, with less or different conviction, upsets you. Or would you rather we don’t point out that dairy consumption results in the death of calves?

    Thanks for calling us absurd, however. I actually chuckled.

  10. There is no such thing as humane veal, or any other kind of meat for that matter. Slaughter is always a violent and bloody process. Why would a website about being environmentally friendly promote veal or any other kind of meat? It doesn’t make sense. The dairy industry is one of the most polluting industries on the planet, not to mention cruel. And dairy and veal are unecessary for human health, so why not promote a truly ethical alternative to dairy and veal – like soy milk? Or hemp milk? Why pretend that somehow, somewhere people are gently petting animals to death? This website is absurd. There is no such thing as a meat eating environmentalist or humane meat.

    For anyone interested in learning about how these humane meat certification programs are really just clever marketing ploys to fool people into feeling good about supporting needless cruelty, check out


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