Every time I read of someone boasting that their favourite food is veal, or see recipes that include veal, I wonder whether the eater knows what he is doing. Very few people who eat meat know or even want to know what goes into their food – I suppose if they opened their ears they might have to open their hearts as well and that would be a big wrench.
The serving of veal is banned in our country. In spite of that many five star hotels serve it (claiming it is imported) — specially in their Italian restaurants. Many Indians go abroad and eat it, thinking that it is haute cuisine. What kind of veal is favoured? Delicate, white-pinkish, tender flesh. In fact, the whiter the veal, the more it is prized.
What is veal? It is the meat of a baby cow, a calf that has been starved to death so that the meat is pale pink, almost white.
The veal calf industry is among the worst of all the kinds of intensive animal agriculture. It is a fate worse than death.
You do know that you are eating a calf, a baby separated from its mother immediately after birth? How are these little calves fattened while keeping their flesh white and their muscles undeveloped? The newborns are taken to veal sheds and placed in tight crates which do not allow them to move even slightly. They cannot even lick themselves — even though this is the most natural function of the calf. They will be kept in these crates, 22 inches wide and 54 inches long, for four months till they are ready for slaughter — or until they die — whichever comes first. These crates are smaller than the trunks of even the smallest car. The rationale is that preventing movement prevents any muscle formation that might make the meat tougher.
They are then fed on a ‘special diet’ (that is what some restaurants write under their veal dish on the menu). What is this special diet? It is a diet that systematically induces anaemia and so makes the blood whiter. Calves are born with a store of iron in their blood. During the four months that they are given this special diet, the iron reserves in their bodies decline so drastically that the time of four months has been chosen deliberately — any more than that, and the calf would die in its crate.
In their hard boxes — because even straw for a softer bedding is denied, in case they eat it — deliberately deprived of iron, the babies develop an insatiable craving for it. If the crate has a rusty nail, they will lick that—if they can reach it. They will strain to lick their own urine; as tiny bits of the mineral are discharged through it—but they can’t move: the box has been designed to prevent movement. Normally a calf would suckle its mother 16 times a day. These calves still have that instinct. So these ill little babies frantically try to suckle any part of the box that they can reach. But they are chained by their necks to the crate.
How are they fattened? The veal producers give them no water at all. This way, the thirsty calves try to quench their thirst by drinking huge amounts of skimmed milk and animal fat mixture, putting on more weight to avoid being thirsty.
The anaemia makes the calves susceptible to pneumonia and other respiratory and enteric diseases. So they are given a constant supply of drugs in their skimmed milk. Two of the most commonly used drugs are Nitrofurazone and Chloramphenicol. All these medicines are retained in the meat and passed on to the eater. Nitrofurazone is a certified carcinogenic for humans. Chloramphenicol causes a fatal blood disorder in a significant number of people.
And, if this were not enough, the calves are kept in complete darkness. Under these conditions, many go blind in the first month and die shortly after losing their sight.
People who eat veal basically are eating the pale and tender meat of a very sick baby cow who was tortured to death. They are also eating all the antibiotics and hormones that kept the baby alive long after its body had given up. The meat is so white because there are no nutrients in it. It is a senseless food eaten by the senseless and savoured for its colour and chewability rather than any intrinsic merit. Surely if a person is paying so much money for the meal, he must want something in exchange; apart from drugs and cancer?
Don’t buy or eat veal, and tell friends, relatives, and neighbours why. Get your local hotels to remove it from their menus or threaten a boycott.
Many restaurants abroad refuse to sell veal, calling it ‘Misery on the Menu’. When you eat veal, here or abroad, remember you are causing deep, systematic and unrelenting cruelty to a child as vulnerable as your own. Or is that fashionable?