The U.S. Department of Agriculture has granted a 2009 petition from the Humane Society of the United States (HSUS) requesting that the agency stop the slaughter of downer veal calves – those too sick, weak or tired to stand on their own.
The petition was filed after the HSUS exposed horrific abuse at a slaughterhouse in Vermont that showed workers kicking and shocking veal calves to get them off of trucks and into holding pens. Worse than the abuse itself, if anything can be, is that it took place in front of a Food Safety and Inspection Service inspector who failed to do anything to stop it.
“We are pleased the USDA is finally moving to address the serious animal welfare and food safety concerns associated with the slaughter of downer calves,” said Jonathan Lovvorn, senior vice president for animal protection litigation and investigations at The HSUS. “We urge the agency to move forward on this issue to protect young calves from inhumane handling and slaughter, and revise its regulations without further delay.”
The HSUS asked the USDA to close a loophole in federal law that allows these calves to be kept alive indefinitely and subsequently dragged to their deaths. In 2009, a ban on slaughtering downer cows was put into place only months after the HSUS brought to light disturbing evidence of the use of downer cows for consumption, which resulted in the largest recall of beef in U.S. history.
Not only is abuse of this nature completely unacceptable, but allowing sick animals into the food supply is also putting people at risk.
“Because nonambulatory animals spend more time lying down, they are often forced to lie in excrement, which can lead to contamination of meat with fecal matter during the slaughtering process. Calf fecal matter may contain a number of pathogens that are dangerous to humans including Giardia, Salmonella and potentially deadly strains of E. coli,” according to the HSUS petition.
Veal calves are a direct byproduct of the dairy industry. In order to produce milk, dairy cows must continuously be impregnated and while some females may be kept for future milking, male calves have no other value.
Sadly, these infants are removed from their mothers after only a few days and the majority of those raised for veal are subjected to intensive confinement for their entire short lives before they are sent to slaughter, most between the ages of 18-20 weeks, unless they’re going for bob veal, which is typically slaughtered before reaching three weeks of age. It’s estimated that 700,000 of these calves are slaughtered annually for veal in the U.S., with bob veal making up 15 percent of the market.
Many of these calves will suffer nearly their entire lives inside individual crates that are so small they are unable to even turn around and are often tethered by their necks. However, veal crates have been banned in seven states including Arizona, Ohio, Colorado, Rhode Island, Maine, California and Michigan.
Help stop this cruelty by making compassionate food choices and passing on not only veal, but all meat and dairy products.
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