"I've noticed that quite a lot of people who are prominent in the animal liberation movement are Jews. Maybe we are simply not prepared to see the powerful hurting the weak." --Peter Singer (Author, Animal Liberation)


Victory Against Veal in Israel

Earlier this week, Haaretz reported that Israel's Agriculture Ministry has banned the practice of denying water to calves raised for veal and demanded that calves at least four weeks old be fed with solid food. Similar regulations are already in place in the European Union.

Veal production has been singled out by the animal rights movement as one of the cruellest examples of industrialized animal agriculture (despite contentions by some that foie gras force-feeding and the battery-cages that egg-laying chickens are confined to may be worse). In the United States, this strategy seems to have worked well: In 2001, the average American ate only half a pound of veal, down from an average of 5.6 pounds per person in 1950.

Haaretz explains why veal has earned its monstrous reputation:

Aside from withholding water, raising veal calves also involves imprisoning them in a veal crate and feeding them a milk substitute intentionally lacking in iron and other essential nutrients.

The animals suffer terribly because they are unable to move freely in the wooden restraining device and cannot turn around or even lie down and stretch. Designed to prevent movement, the crate does its job of atrophying the calves' muscles, thus producing tender veal.

The iron-deficient diet keeps the animals anemic and creates the pale pink or white color desired in the finished product. And because they are denied water, the calves are always thirsty, and are driven to drink a large quantity of the high-fat liquid feed.

Leading Jewish authorities have also claimed that veal is not quite kosher, as Dr. Richard Schwartz explains in Judasim and Vegetarianism. In 1982, Rabbi Moshe Feinstein (who Schwartz describes as "perhaps the most influential Orthodox Jewish halachic authority in the United States in this generation") ruled that Jews are forbidden from raising calves for veal in the inhumane manner described above. Feinstein explained that veal production is not a legimitate necessity that could justify such vast suffering. This ruling inspired Rabbi Aryeh Spero to write a two-part article in the Jewish Press, in which he contended that animals who are too weak or sick to walk on their own are not fit for ritual slaughter. Spero suggested that the horrible conditions by which calves are raised in the veal industry mean that only about 30 percent of them should meet kosher requirements, raising concern about any kosher meat supplier with consistently higher percentages.

When animals are cute and fuzzy, it's easier to target the industries that slaughter them outright, as was evidenced this week when the U.S. Senate voted to ban the slaugher of horses for human consumption. For many farmed animals, though, the specifically cruel processes by which they are mistreated, such as foie gras force-feeding and induced anemia in the veal industry, make the best targets.


  • At 9/24/2005 3:50 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said…

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  • At 10/02/2005 1:36 PM, Blogger Soferet said…

    Thanks so much for this, Michael. This is really good news that finally some people are taking tzar ba'alei chayim seriously.

  • At 11/29/2005 10:24 PM, Blogger heebnvegan said…

    Well I'm glad to hear you've stayed away from veal for so long. That's longer than I've been vegetarian. :-) I just read the other day from Anonymous for Animal Rights that efforts are moving forward in Israel to do away with tiny veal crates and water deprivation in the country's veal industry.

    I often ask people: Is there any level of animal suffering and cruelty to animals for which you'd say you couldn't go on supporting that industry by eating a product of suffering? Many, like yourself, see that veal is horrendous and is something that shouldn't be consumed.

    But sadly, veal isn't all that unique. As Erik Marcus points out in Meat Market, a forkful of egg (for which five egg-laying chickens are kept in batter cages so tiny that they wouldn't be able to flap a wing if they were the only bird in the cage) might come at a cost of greater suffering than a forkful of veal. There are currently legislative efforts in Arizona to ban not only veal crates but the similar gestation crates that are used for pigs as well (although obviously kosher folks don't eat pig meat). Many animals are mutilated in that they have their beaks, tails, testicles, and horns cut off without any painkillers. This is the norm for animal agriculture in the United States (and other parts of the world too).

    So I thank you for not eating veal, but I invite you to look a step further. Read a bit on GoVeg.com or JewishVeg.com for more info. If you see veal as causing unnecessary animal suffering (tza'ar ba'alei chayim), are other animal products from factory farms really any better?

    Thanks for your comment!


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