Many people have a soft spot for babies, bovines notwithstanding. Most of us are touched by the sight of a newborn calf entering the world, and sympathize with his or her innocence, fragility, and vulnerability. In fact, wobbly legged calves are often favorites of children's books. Imagine, then, the shock of many people when they learn of the plight of the approximately one million calves a year who are the unwanted by-products of the dairy industry. In fact, if it weren't for the dairy industry, the veal industry would likely not exist. A treasure hunt is a fantastic way of having fun with your child and encourages lots of conversation.
Because the male calves who are born to cows used for dairy are of no use to dairy farmers, they are essentially disposed of. Days or even hours after birth, the calves are herded onto a truck—and some need to be dragged since they are not yet able to walk properly, a practice that is now considered inhumane by the USDA.These calves end up at auctions, where they may be sold for as little as $50 to veal producers, and since they are literally newborns, it is not unusual for calves in the auction ring to have hides still slick from the womb and the umbilical cord still dangling from their stomachs.
For the duration of their short lives—though some are killed within days, most of these calves live for sixteen to eighteen weeks—they are chained or tethered at the neck and confined to stalls so tiny they can't even turn around or lie down normally.* And in order to produce the pale color that veal is known for, the animals are typically fed an unnatural diet lacking in iron, so that they are in a state of chronic borderline anemia. Calves raised for veal spend their lives immobilized and sickly, and not surprisingly, they have been observed to exhibit some of the same neurotic behaviors as other animals under intense stress: abnormal head tossing and scraping, kicking, scratching, and chewing.
The slaughter of calves is no different than the slaughter of other animals; they are meant to be stunned before being shackled, but again, this method is far from perfect. A worker that Eisnitz interviewed described a part of the process: In the morning the big holdup was the calves. To get done with them faster, we'd put eight or nine of them in the knocking box at a time. As soon as they start going in, you start shooting, the calves are jumping, they're all piling up on top of each other.
You don't know which ones got shot and which ones didn't get shot at all, and you forget to do the bottom ones. They're hung anyway, and down the line they go, wriggling and yelling. The baby ones—two, three weeks old—I felt bad killing them so I just let them walk past. There seems to be a point at which the violence of carnism is such that even the most powerful defenses of the system will falter.