Glenn Gaetz: A little bit of veal is in every glass of milk

Recently, I heard an interview on the Animal Voices show on Co-op Radio with Paul Shapiro, the senior director of the factory farming campaign of the Humane Society of the United States, about its investigation into an organic veal slaughterhouse. The video footage was particularly damning and resulted in the closure of the slaughterhouse in Vermont.

According to the Humane Society:

Videotape from the investigation reveals that veal calves only a few days old—many with their umbilical cords still hanging from their bodies—were unable to stand or walk on their own. The tape shows that the animals were kicked, slapped and repeatedly shocked with electric prods and subjected to other mistreatment.

The video of the investigation is particularly hard to watch. Seeing babies abused in this way is horrific. Unfortunately, abuses like this are not isolated incidences. Investigation after investigation has revealed that abuse of animals is built in to the system.

Male calves are the excess of the dairy industry. Hundreds of thousands of unwanted male dairy calves are born every year here in Canada. Whether organic, free-range, grass-fed, or conventional, there is no escaping this fact of milk production.

As mammals, cows need to get pregnant and give birth in order to produce milk. Most people believe that cows need to be milked when in fact they produce milk only to feed their young . Cows on dairy farms produce milk because they’ve been artificially inseminated and forced to give birth. Their newborns are taken from them immediately after birth so that there will be enough milk for humans.

Like humans, cows have a nine-month pregnancy and form extremely strong bonds with their young. But unlike humans, dairy mothers have their calves taken from them at birth and dragged onto trucks and slaughtered within a week. Some calves are taken and kept in extreme confinement for six months to produce the white, tender “milk-fed” veal sold at high-end restaurants. The mother cow is left childless and treated as a milk-machine. All of her mothering instincts are thwarted.

It has been said that there is a little bit of veal in every glass of milk. That is somewhat figurative, yet completely true and accurate. Literally speaking, the meat of most veal calves goes into things like hotdogs, pet food, and other processed meat products.

It’s not possible for a dairy farm to operate without disposing of their excess calves. The consumption of milk, cheese, yogurt, and any other dairy product supports the veal industry. In fact, without dairy, there would be no veal industry. Veal is, plain and simple, a by-product of the dairy industry.

The Humane Society investigation was of a slaughterhouse in the United States. Are conditions any better here in Canada? Largely, no. In his interview, Shapiro pointed out that Canada is actually falling well behind the United States in terms of legislation that protects animals.

We like to think that in Canada conditions are much better than in the U.S., but the reality is quite different. In general, our meat, egg, and dairy industries are the same. Often Canadian farmers are raising animals to supply the same U.S. companies, like Tyson, Perdue, or Cargill. However, there are some differences.

The U.S. has banned the slaughter of “downers”—cattle which are either too sick or too weak to walk into the slaughterhouse. Until recently, downers were allowed to be moved using forklifts or sleds, but now laws exist which require that these animals be euthanized. Canada has no legislation restricting the slaughter of downers. We do have a law which insists that animals must be able to enter the transport truck to the slaughterhouse on their own, but very often it is the transport itself that renders an animal too weak or injured to walk off the truck. If an animal is too weak to walk into the slaughterhouse, they can be dragged or pushed—and their meat ends up in our food supply.

There have been movements in several states to ban the use of extreme confinement systems such as veal crates, battery cages, and gestation crates and sow stalls. So far there has been no effort in Canada to make similar welfare changes, putting the U.S. well ahead of Canada when it comes to the treatment of the animals we raise to kill and eat.

Ninety-eight percent of Canadian eggs come from hens confined in battery cages where the birds have so little space that they are unable to spread even one wing. Pigs raised in Canada are kept in sow stalls and gestation crates where the animals are unable to take one step forward or back. Meat chickens are bred so that they grow to slaughter weight in just six weeks—suffering heart and lung issues as well as broken bones because of their accelerated growth. That’s how we do things here in Canada, just like the U.S.

This probably makes sense when you consider that the Canadian government is spending millions to support a globally criticized seal-hunting industry and that we pride ourselves on our history of killing millions of animals for their fur.

Why is our perception so different than reality?

Glenn Gaetz is a director of Liberation B.C., a Vancouver-based animal-rights organization.




Nov 16, 2009 at 7:11pm

I am a lifelong lacto-ovo vegetarian, and lately I've been considering how to further reduce or eliminate animal products altogether, if only so I don't support the widespread abuse of animals. UN studies have suggested that within several generations the whole world will be vegetarian, out of necessity; meat will be a rich person's food. There seems little need for the meat addiction in our world already. As Pythagoras once said, "For as long as men massacre animals, they will kill each other. Who sows the seed of murder and pain, cannot reap joy and love." Furthermore, according to St Francis of Assisi, "If you have men who will exclude any of God's creatures from the shelter of compassion and pity, you will have men who will deal likewise with their fellow men." And lastly, a quote from a president of the American Humane Society, "I believe that all animals have that spark of life that infuses all of us. They can't write a sonnet or a book, but in fundamental aspects they are the same: they want to live as much as we do, and they fear as much as we do. Animals are a test of our character, because we have absolute power over them. We can choose the path of exploitation or the path of mercy and kindness. That last path is the only right one." Thank you for this succinct little article.

Alison C.

Nov 16, 2009 at 7:52pm

This is a great article, outlining the many cruelties of the meat industry. Thank you, too, for pointing out some information specific to Canada.

Denise S.

Nov 16, 2009 at 11:20pm

I didn't know these facts about Canada either. So much of our information on factory farming in U.S. based. Thanks, Glenn


Nov 17, 2009 at 7:37am

It would be interesting to see some reporting on the stranglehold the Dairy marketing councils have on the diets of the developed world.
There is milk or one of its' by products in so much of the food eaten here, whether needed or not.
Our society is indoctrinated to believe we can't survive or be healthy without milk, even though our bodies don't absorb most of the calcium it contains.
If you believe in evolution, then why not believe we once did not consume any milk beyond infancy.


Nov 17, 2009 at 8:31pm

Cows for very strong bonds with each other and their babies. A dairy cow mourns when her baby is taken away from her. Yet, she spends her life being forced to get pregnant then have her baby taken away from her at birth. Her baby is slaughtered and she stands at the milking stall being forced into another pregnancy. Drinking milk is not just stealing from a baby - it's worse. It's stealing from a baby, raping his mother and then killing him. And eventually, his mother is killed too.


Nov 19, 2009 at 11:25am

The farmers have said there will be a 25% increase in all dairy and meat products across the board. If any of you believe that a farmer should take the money for new barns and the land to put the barns on out his own pocket then all of you will starve. I ask the vegans, who grows the grain that you consume? THE SAME FARMERS THAT ARE RAISING THE ANIMALS. So keep it up and your grain prices will be doubled. By the way the 25% price increase is from the farmer to distributor. The distributor will tac on another 25%. The distributor will sell to the grocery. The grocery will tac on a additional 25%.


Nov 19, 2009 at 3:05pm

please raise the price of milk and tax it to death so that the money can be used to clean up the environmental and health damage done by the dairy industry. Majority of the world's grain is going to feed animals, not humans. 55 billion farm animals are being fed while 1.2 billion people have nothing to eat. Eat lower on the food chain and dump dairy.


Nov 20, 2009 at 8:35pm

"Why is our perception so different than reality? "


Canadian smugness and ignorance.
Rod Smelser

Lindsay Cross

Nov 25, 2009 at 8:05pm

Milk is gross. Think about it...would you drink the breast milk of the stranger sitting next to you on the bus?? No way! Not to mention that it is a horrible source of calcium of which the dairy industry prides itself on. Look into the countries that have the highest level of osteoperosis and you will find that it is the milk drinking societies. I hate how milk is ooozing into products that used to be dairy free....even gum has milk ingredients in it now.

Great Article! Keep up the good word!!


Dec 8, 2009 at 10:10pm

Sooooooo glad I've cut out milk. I did it for my health and I've never felt better and less gross--now I see there are great ethical reasons for it too.