So that they will constantly give milk, dairy cows are artificially impregnated every year. After a nine-month gestation, calves are routinely taken from their mothers days, or sometimes just hours, after being born.
Male calves are sold to veal farms at auction and will be slaughtered at about five months old, while females will eventually become dairy cows themselves. These young females will never be nursed by their mothers, however; all of their milk is destined for human consumption.
Cows are social and affectionate animals—separating mothers and newborn calves is shown to cause significant stress for both.
Due to the size of the Canadian dairy herd, unwanted male calves drive the veal industry. Calves are either raised as “milk-fed veal” or “grain-fed veal.”
In 2012, 335,000 male calves were slaughtered for human consumption in Canada.
Due in large part to its huge dairy sector, Quebec is subsequently the highest veal-producing province in the country, followed by Ontario. Quebec produces more than 150,000 milk-fed veal calves each year.
Normally, calves begin to eat grass and chew their cud at only a few weeks old. To produce a more tender final product, milk-fed veal calves are fed exclusively with powdered milk until they are slaughtered. For the sole aesthetic reason of producing pale-coloured meat, these calves are kept deliberately anemic over the course of their short lives.
A Code of Practice for the treatment of veal calves exists in Canada; however, its standards are completely voluntary.
Calves raised in intensive confinement are denied the chance to express even their most instinctive behaviours. Restricted to crates barely larger than their own bodies, they are unable to take more than a step forward or back, turn around or lie down comfortably. They have no chance to interact with other animals, exercise, groom themselves, suckle or explore.
Canada ranks poorly in its treatment of veal calves compared to other parts of the world. For welfare reasons, the entire European Union banned the use of individual veal crates in 2007. Eight US states have passed similar bans, and in Australia and New Zealand, calves are raised in group housing enclosures.