What is veal?

What is veal?
Veal is meat from calves, usually the bull calves from dairy herds, since they cannot be used for milk production. Veal is noted for being pale and tender, which is largely the result of a restricted diet and minimal exercise, however, since the ban on crates, calves do move around a lot more. Instead of feeding on its mother's milk, the calf is typically fed a synthetic formula.

How old is a calf when slaughtered for veal?
There is no recommended age for slaughter, however, it is normally from six to eight months old once they reach about 300 kilos. Under European and UK rules, a calf is defined as being under six months and veal is only allowed to be labelled as such if the animal is under eight months.

Are veal calves in the EU still kept in crates?
No, veal crates were banned throughout the EU at the end of 2006, and in the UK in 1992, something for which the RSPCA had campaigned for many years. Veal crates were individual pens without enough room for the calves to turn round, lie down properly, or even groom themselves.

How is veal kept in the UK?
It is common practice in the UK for calves to be kept indoors but in well-bedded, open-sided barns lit by natural daylight. These barns allow for the circulation of fresh air (and views of the outside world) while at the same time protecting the calves from the elements.

Why is veal cruel?
In the EU - but not the UK - veal calves are usually kept in closed barns with slatted floors, without bedding and with little or no fibre in their diet.

Why is veal white?
White veal is not produced in the UK. White veal comes from calves, on the continent, which were slaughtered before eight months of age, usually between 20 and 24 weeks of age. During this time their diets consist of fortified milk and solids, with very little fibre and low in iron.

Does veal see daylight?
In the UK, calves are often kept indoors but in open-sided barns. These barns are well lit by natural daylight and the open sides allow the circulation of fresh air and permit the animals to look outside.

Are calves still exported to the continent for veal?
Yes, male dairy calves can legally be transported as young as 14 days old. Exporting calves to the continent is a major concern since the transport regulations permit them to be transported on a lorry for up to 19 hours, with just one hour’s rest on board, in temperatures of up to 35℃. Research has shown that calves under four weeks old struggle to adapt to the live transport process and can suffer higher levels of illness and death following transport.

Is veal raised humanely?
Although veal crates have been banned in the EU, many calves on the continent are still kept in barren houses with slatted floors and no straw bedding. Not giving calves straw to lie on means they have nowhere comfortable to sleep and rest. Having no fibre in their diet can stop their digestive system from developing normally - good quality fibre such as clean barley straw is essential. Calves can be given a low iron milky diet with insufficient fibre.

What happens to bull calves of dairy cows that aren’t reared for veal?
Sadly, the vast majority of unwanted bull calves are shot at birth as there isn’t currently enough of a market for all of them to be reared as veal. The RSPCA is seeking to end the practice of shooting bull calves on dairy farms.

Is veal still cruel?
The RSPCA welfare standards for veal calves do not allow calves to be transported to the continent. The calves must be kept in small groups, with deep straw bedding to lie on and are not allowed to be solely fed on milk. They must be given a diet rich in iron and fibre to keep them healthy and to allow their digestive systems to develop normally.

Do the RSPCA welfare standards allow single hutches for rearing calves?
Yes, individual hutches or pens are allowed to be used by members of the RSPCA Assured scheme, providing all the RSPCA’s strict welfare standards are being met. Each hutch must be big enough for the individual calf to turn around and lie down whilst feeling secure and safe. And there must be plenty of straw bedding to lie on, play with and nibble. The calves must also be able to see, hear and touch those kept in neighbouring hutches. However, the new RSPCA standards encourage keeping calves in pairs, which enables them to develop their social skills at an earlier age. The law in the UK requires all calves to be housed in groups by 8 weeks of age.

What is rose veal?
Rose veal is meat from calves over the age of six months (usually about eight months) that have had fibre included in their diet, and therefore the meat is a much darker colour than milk/white veal from young calves who have only been fed on milk.

Is RSPCA Assured labelled veal rose veal?
Yes, all RSPCA Assured labelled veal is rose as the calves must have had fibre in their diet and are over six months before they are slaughtered.

On RSPCA Assured farms, veal calves must have:

  • environmental enrichment from six weeks of age
  • deep straw bedding to lie on
  • sufficient iron and fibre in their diet to keep them healthy

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