This article was first published in The Viking News, December 17, 2003, a bi-weekly publication of the State University of New York, Westchester Community College.
By Taffy Lee Williams
Mad cow burgers? No, thanks. Not today. You would prefer, maybe, veal? Veal parmesan? Yes, that's right. It's being served in the WCC FSA* Dining Room.
What is veal, anyway? Why is it whitish pink? Do cows produce beige, pink or white meat?
Have you ever wondered about these things? Maybe so, after seeing veal parmesan offered as a daily special in the Cafeteria not long ago.
That shade of pink! How do they do it? Actually, it is not easy to achieve that interesting pale milky tone in calf muscle. There are several ingenious methods conceived of and applied by those masters of animal dominion, your friendly factory farmer. Here are the facts, so hang on to your fork.
Young male calves are taken from their mothers just moments after birth and placed in small "crates" just 22 inches wide by 54 inches deep. They are chained by the neck so tightly they can neither lie down, turn around nor stretch their necks for the rest of their miserable lives. In fact, they are forced into restrictive positions so their flesh will not develop.
To further enhance that pale pink color, calves are given a liquid diet consisting of an artificial milk substitute that is purposely deficient in fiber and iron. Those calculating farmers know that creating anemia removes that annoying bright rich blood red color that we all respect in the usual slab of meat. While on this completely liquid diet, the "milk fed" calves are kept in darkness and are unable to move. Besides anemia, the tortured creatures predictably succumb to respiratory illness, frequent injuries, chronic diarrhea and pneumonia. Abnormal coping behaviors that the chained up animals exhibit as they squirm and wriggle in an endless quest for relief include kicking repeatedly, head shaking and tossing and incessant chewing although there is nothing in their mouths to chew on. Constant rubbing against the crates leaves open sores to fester on injured limbs.
Simply put, veal factories are breeding grounds for disease. To counter the high stress and illness that this extreme confinement leads to, and to keep these victims of carnivorous human consumption alive, the veal calves' only source of nourishment, the milk substitute, is laden with a massive amount of powerful drugs, antibiotics and chemicals. In fact, five times more drugs are administered to veal calves than other factory farm animals. All this means that the slab of meat served by the WCC Dining Cafeteria may contain unsafe amounts of penicillin, tetracycline, sulfa drugs, and a host of others.
Actually, veal is the meat most likely to contain illegal levels of drug residues. In fact, the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) found over a dozen veal farms giving the calves an illegal drug, clenbuterol, which will deliberately increase anemia and hasten body growth. (Ingesting even small amounts of this drug can cause tremors, palpitations, breathing problems, fever, other severe illness in humans and even death.) The resistant strains of bacteria those drugs were meant to kill may still be present in the meat. When faced with viral infections or other illness, the drugs and antibiotics most commonly used may be ineffective in people who have consumed this chemical-laden flesh as well; stronger dosages or more toxic drugs must be used increasing the risk of adverse side effects.
Ironically, the meat from these anemic and suffering calves is marketed as "fancy," "milk-fed," "formula-fed" or even "white" veal, a delicacy prized by the "gourmets." Are we supposed to consider the WCC Dining Cafeteria a "gourmet" restaurant?
Where do chemicals and drugs stored in the muscle tissue of calves end up when the animal is killed? The drugs don't just disappear. They are passed on to the next higher level in the food chain: the dining hall patrons at WCC. While you're chewing and digesting that pinkish white meat a tidy chemical stew is settling into the fat cells of your body.
In order for dairy cows to produce milk they must be pregnant or nursing. Half of all cattle born are male, which are useless to the dairy industry; these are sent off to become beef or veal. In fact, over one million calves end up in anemia-inducing conditions that will eventually put their corpses on a plate like yours at the WCC Dining Cafeteria.
In the US veal represents a $700 million slice of the factory farm industry. The grim reality of production is something the cattle and dairy industry would fight to cover up, to prevent public condemnation.
Not everyone has turned a blind eye to this Elsie The Cow horror show. The European Union has banned the infamous veal crate, which will be phased out by 2007. A bill is pending in the New Jersey legislature that would require veal farmers to provide enough room for a calf to turn around, and would make anemia-producing diets illegal. Other states and nations may eventually follow their lead. Given the time it takes for public health regulations regarding factory farm animals to be initiated and passed it may take decades before other states and nations follow their lead.
The question becomes, why are we subjecting WCC faculty, students and staff to this kind of public health hazard? Why are we promoting a filthy, cruel, disease-ridden industry that is plagued by drug and chemical violations by serving veal on the school's menu?
Author John Robbins, in his book, Diet for a New America, writes, "Today, because of the way animals are raised for market, the question of whether or not to eat meat has a whole new meaning, and a whole new urgency. Never before have animals been treated like this. Never before has such deep, unrelenting and systematic cruelty been mass produced. Never before has the decision of each individual been so important."
*Westchester Community College Faculty Student Association
The New York Whale and Dolphin Action League
PO Box 273, Yonkers, NY 10707 USA
To subscribe send an email to email@example.com
A Project of Cetacean Society International
URL for this page: http://ny4whales.org/veal.html