Thursday, August 19, 2010

A Veal Dilemma

“So what we really have a problem is with the boy calves, we don’t like the veal industry.” The perception out there seems to be that the veal industry is the most widespread use of dairy bull calves. So where does this thought come from? Well, on this one we can thank, in part, our friends at the USDA. If you search veal on the USDA web site, you get this statement. “Dairy cows must give birth to continue producing milk, but male dairy calves are of little or no value to the dairy farmer. A small percentage are raised to maturity and used for breeding.”(1)
So if I read that article the way a young person with no Ag experience does, well I guess I would think, all dairy bull calves are veal calves. I would also believe cows must be in a state of perpetual pregnancy to give milk.
This is a pretty good example of how, when we don’t have enough life experiences, our minds fill in the empty holes. Unfortunately, as an industry we often write things, say things and show things that mean one thing to us, yet from a different angle or perspective look very different.
Individual calf housing, artificial insemination and somatic cell count are all things that make sense to us, but to others they can look like calf prison, reproduction gone wrong, and milk laced with contaminants. A cow that is unable to walk, (a downer cow) is the way all cows finish their lives. Clipping a piglet’s teeth, castrating or tail docking are considered torture, not something being done for an animals’ safety. When an animal dies, it died because we didn’t care, we pumped it full of drugs, or because we tortured it with neglect.
Most young people these days aren’t exposed to death the way people used to be. Death is something to be avoided at all costs. Everyone is trying to shelter themselves from anything that looks, smells or feels uncomfortable, so it’s no surprise that they run from the thought or the reality of death. They approach any death, even that that of a food animal, with that same sense of dread.
Oh, and at some point we really need to talk about how artificial insemination looks to the non-ag community. I mean really, you put your arm where?

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