HSVMA Petitions AVMA on Veal Crate Issue: Veterinarians Should Take a Stand Against Cruel Confinement

May 19, 2008

The Humane Society Veterinary Medical Association (HSVMA) recently submitted a petition to the American Veterinary Medical Association (AVMA) asking the association to adopt a resolution pertaining to the confinement of calves raised for veal. The petition, signed by 189 HSVMA veterinary members, will be considered by the AVMA House of Delegates at its annual meeting in New Orleans in July.

Veal calf in crate
Calves raised for veal are often confined in these restrictive crates.
Farm Sanctuary

The petition asks the AVMA to support a “change in veal husbandry practices from the individual calf crate system that severely restricts movement to group housing systems that allow for freedom of movement and socialization, in order to enhance the welfare of calves contained therein.”

Male calves, a byproduct of the dairy business, have been used in the veal industry for decades. Of no use in producing milk, the calves are sold to veal farms. In order to retain the look of pale flesh and the tenderness desired to command a high price, the young animals are kept almost motionless to prevent muscle development and only fed milk long after they should be eating solid food, which results in their flesh remaining pale. These practices induce both physical and psychological suffering.

The resolution outlines the most urgent concerns of the HSVMA and its veterinary members, including:

  • The majority of male dairy calves raised for veal in the United States are confined in individual crates measuring 2.1 to 2.5 feet in width. Confined to these crates for most of their lives, the calves are deprived of normal movement: They cannot turn around or lie down naturally, cannot stretch their limbs laterally for proper rest and sleep and cannot develop adequate bone and muscle growth because of exercise deprivation.
  • The calves are typically tethered or chained to the front of the crate, virtually restricting all movement.
  • The isolation of calves in separate crates prevents them from interacting. Social animals, calves are dependent on physical contact with their mothers for their well-being, and the separation leads to chronic stress, which increases the risk of disease.
  • Even the veal industry adopted a resolution in 2006 recommending the entire industry transition to group housing. One veal industry CEO, Randy Strauss of Strauss Veal and Lamb International, wrote that veal crates are “inhumane and archaic” and “do nothing more than subject a calf to stress, fear, physical harm, and pain.”

HSVMA looks forward to positive action by the AVMA House of Delegates at its July meeting. Dr. Holly Cheever, DVM, a member of the HSVMA Leadership Council, will present the resolution on behalf of HSVMA.