Why the RSPCA and Compassion In World Farming push rose veal
From ANIMAL PEOPLE, July/August 2008:
LONDON–Animal rights groups worldwide on August 17, 2008
abruptly found themselves explaining that they do not endorse veal,
the Royal SPCA of Britain and Compassion In World Farming had to
explain that they are not animal rights groups, and the public was
probably just downright confused after Rachel Shields, a food writer
for The Independent, wrote that “Animal-rights groups have been
campaigning to get it off the menu for decades, but now, in an
abrupt U-turn, they are clamouring for veal to come back to British
“The RSPCA and Compassion in World Farming are trying to
redeem the meat in the eyes of U.K. consumers,” Shields continued,
“most of whom now view veal as the ultimate ethical no-no.”
“All those terrible pictures of calves being transported in
veal crates are firmly etched in people’s minds. Veal gets lumped in
with foie gras as something untouchable,” RSPCA spokesperson Calie
Woozley complained to Shields.
“Veal shouldn’t be a dirty word,” agreed CIWF food business
manager Rowen West-Henzell. “British rose veal is something we are
happy to endorse.”
Explained Shields, “Rose veal calves are not fed the
restricted, low-iron diet that is needed to produce the traditional
What the RSPCA and CIWF endorse is essentially the same
product that the Chicago-based Food Animal Concerns Trust promoted in
the 1980s and 1990s, after FACT founder Robert A. Brown started a
company called Rambling Rose veal. Rose veal calves are slaughtered
in infancy, like other veal calves, but are not raised in crates
and may be raised outdoors with other calves or their mothers.
Never strongly advocating vegetarianism or veganism, which
are central to all prominent versions of animal rights theory, the
RSPCA and CIWF have boosted the rose veal industry since May 2006,
when live calf exports from Britain to European veal finishers
resumed after a decade-long hiatus resulting from European concern
about mad cow disease.
Explained CIWF chief executive Philip Lymbery in August 2006,
“CIWF prefers calves to be reared in higher-welfare British systems
rather than being exported live to continental veal production units.
In Britain, the law states that calves must be given bedding as well
as more space and a better diet. These three simple provisions
significantly enhance calf welfare, but are missing in the most
widely used systems on the continent, including in Holland, where
much of the veal sold in the U.K. comes from.”
But there is not much veal sold in the U.K. in the first
place: it accounts for just one tenth of a percent of British meat
“Over the next year we will be promoting the consumption of
rose veal as a way of dealing with the problem of wasted bull
calves,” West- Henzell told Shields.
Wrote Shields, “Last year around 260,000 young male dairy
calves were condemned as ‘waste products’ in the U.K., as they don’t
produce milk and are rarely used for beef due to their low muscle
tone. These animals are either shot at birth or exported to the
CIWF founder Peter Roberts, who as a dairy farmer refused to
sell calves to crated veal producers, counted winning the 1990
British ban on veal crates as one of his favorite accomplishments.
He died in November 2006. The CIWF policy appears to be consistent
with Roberts’ example–but even without taking a position in
opposition to drinking milk, as PETA and Vegetarians International
Voice for Animals have urged, advancing agricultural technology
provides other options. Specifically, either centrifugal
sperm-sorting, embryo transplanting, or genetic manipulation can be
used to select the gender of the calves who must be born each year to
bring cows into lactation.
In addition, cows may be given bovine somatatropin (BST) to
boost milk production so that fewer cows must be impregnated and
fewer calves need be born to produce a given volume of milk.
However, CIWF and most other animal welfare organizations,
along with most animal rights groups and many consumer interest
groups, have taken hardline stands against technological
interference in natural agricultural reproductive processes.
Opposition to the use of BST has been so intense and sustained that
Monsanto in early August 2008 announced that it will sell the
division of the company that produces Posilac, the most widely used
brand of BST. Monsanto had aggressively lobbied to win approval of
BST by the U.S. Food & Drug Administration, including allegedly
hiring spies to infiltrate anti-BST organizations and suing some BST
critics. Only about 15% of U.S. dairy cattle are given BST
treatments, which are even less popular abroad.
Monsanto interest in selling Posilac appeared to dwindle
after Wal-Mart Stores Inc. announced in March 2008 that it would no
longer sell milk from cows treated with BST under the Wal-Mart logo.
A newer hormonal technology that suppresses the amount of
serotonin in cows’ mammary glands produces a comparable 15% increase
in milk yield, University of Cincinnati medical school researcher
Nelson Horseman and colleagues announced in October 2007 via
Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, but the procedure
is believed to be years away from commercial use.
For the RSPCA, the veal and dairy issues echo controversies
that have troubled policymakers since 1828, when it was still called
the London SPCA and was rescued from bankruptcy by machine tool
inventor Lewis Gompertz. Gompertz was expelled from the RSPCA board
in 1832 for the alleged offenses of being a vegetarian and a Jew.
For decades afterward the RSPCA defended itself against allegations
of being anti-Semitic by asserting that Gompertz’s vegetarian
advocacy was the crux of the issue.
Gompertz later founded the Animals’ Friend Society, which he
headed until 1848. The RSPCA–after many other board-level conflicts
and clashes with pro-vegetarian organizations–in 1996 introduced the
first major animal welfare labeling scheme for farm products, called