• Becci Pigeon

New investigation: almost 6000 unweaned dairy calves exported from Northern Ireland last year

Updated: Feb 18

It's been said that there's a little bit of veal in every glass of milk. While that isn't the literal truth, the fact is that the veal industry would not exist without the dairy industry. Because cows must give birth in order to provide milk, the dairy industry produces millions of ‘surplus’ calves, and the veal industry was originally developed to make some profit from them. In fact, at this point it is cheaper to kill them outright; it costs a farmer up to £30 to sell a calf on for beef or veal, but only £9 to kill them. Approximately 95,000 male calves are slaughtered immediately after birth every year in the UK, and the number is on the rise.

Though most calves are either killed at birth or sold for low-quality meat, there is another option, especially with regards to Ireland: the veal industry. Veal is prized for being pale and tender, conditions which are brought on by nutrient-deficient diets and restrictions on movement.Though live export is banned in Scotland and is slated to be banned in the rest of the UK this year, Northern Ireland (and Ireland) still export hundreds of thousands of male calves as young as two weeks old--or younger--on long live export journeys to countries in Europe and the Middle East. Experts have argued that it would be 'kinder to shoot them.'

And now a new investigation has come out, revealing that 5,863 unweaned calves were exported from Northern Ireland in 2019, some going at least 30 hours without food on their 63 hour journey to Spain. These are truly baby animals--some were as young as 15 days old. Normally, calves would feed from their mothers every four hours or so. Nicola Glen, inspector with Eyes on Animals UK & Ireland, explains that '...the calves should be unloaded and fed and they need to be fed individually because they are so tiny and don’t understand what’s going on.' And though the animals are provided with water, this is inadequate and results in dehydration: some of the calves are so young that they don't know how to use the water teats. Others simply cannot access them because they aren't close enough.

How can this be defended? We certainly cannot argue that cows' milk is somehow necessary for our health...or even particularly good for us. (Free download)

Looking to make the switch to more compassionate food choices? Check out some of the best vegan starter kits at our page!

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