The National Farm Animal Care Council’s new Code of Practice for the Care and Handling of Veal Calves represents both a first step towards improved farm animal welfare and a missed opportunity. The updated Code, released this week, phases out the use of cruel veal crates by December 31, 2020, but only for calves older than eight weeks of age. Humane Society International/Canada welcomed the move as a step in the right direction, while calling for the elimination of all veal crates, regardless of the age of the calf.
A substantial body of scientific evidence has shown these small, barren stalls to be detrimental to animal welfare. Nine U.S. states have already banned them and the American Veal Association has announced plans to abolish, entirely, the use of confinement crates in the U.S. veal industry.
Under the new Code of Practice, however, Canadian producers will be permitted to confine calves in individual stalls for the first two months of their lives. After that point, producers will be required to transition to higher-welfare group housing that allow calves to socialize and move around more freely, as well as groom themselves, play and explore their environments. Additionally, the Code also requires that calves not be tethered after 2020, eventually allowing them greater mobility and freedom.
“The decision to transition the Canadian veal industry away from lifelong confinement in these archaic crates is indicative of the public concern for animal welfare in this country,” stated Riana Topan, campaign manager for HSI/Canada. “Regrettably, the Code still permits the veal industry to subject calves to intensive confinement in veal crates for as long as eight weeks, which is out of step with Canadian values and scientific opinion.”
The newly released Code allows several other practices detrimental to animal welfare, such as the use of electric prods on calves older than three months and the painful and unnecessary practice of dehorning. It also continues to permit calves to be separated from their mothers at birth and the weaning of calves (from milk or formula) beginning at just four weeks of age, even though they would naturally nurse from their mothers for seven months.
In 2014, three of Canada’s largest grocery retailers – Loblaw, Metro and Sobeys – pledged to end the use of individual crates from their supply chains by 2018.
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