The use of crates in veal production was, and is still in some parts of the world, a hideous method of farming. Photographs leaked by animal rights organisations in the late 1980s turned the veal-buying public’s stomach against the meat, and campaigns about the cruelty of veal production was so successful that crates were banned in the UK in 1990.
Almost 25 years later, veal still has a bad name, despite the fact that British high welfare veal (as it is now known) could well be one of the most ‘ethical’ meats you can buy. The problem is that engaging with veal production makes us face hard truths about where our food comes from. The bitter fact is, every year tens of thousands of calves are born to keep dairy cows producing milk. Unfortunately, whereas hens will lay eggs whether or not there is any promise of a chick, to produce milk, cows need to have calves.
Something has to be done with bull calves - obviously they will never produce milk, and due to them being bred from milk cows, will not yield enough meat to ‘make it’ as beef cows. The result of this excess is that every year, thousands of calves are shot 24-48 hours after birth, and thousands more are exported, often in terrible conditions, to reach a veal market that has much looser regulations than our own.