New rules ban farmers from denying water to veal calves

By Amiram Cohen

Haaretz

Elul 15, 5765

Animal rights groups notched up another success recently when the Agriculture Ministry banned farmers from denying water to veal calves as part of the method by which they are raised for slaughter. Some two years ago, the animal rights groups won a High Court of Justice ruling that bans the force-feeding of geese.

Withholding water from veal calves constitutes a central part of the manner in which the animals are raised for slaughter, with the objective being to keep their meat tender and "white." 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.

Due to the harsh physical conditions and constant thirst, the calves are susceptible to a long list of diseases, including chronic pneumonia or constant diarrhea. Consequently, they must be given massive doses of antibiotics and other drugs just to keep them alive. The calves often suffer also from wounds caused by the constant rubbing against the crates.

Anonymous for Animal Rights initiated the fight against this method of raising veal calves - banned already among EU states - some four years ago. Since then, the Agriculture Ministry has tried to formulate new regulations for the feeding and raising of veal calves, but the regulations have been rejected time and again by the Knesset Education Committee, which has deemed them insufficient to prevent the animals from suffering.

Recently, however, the Agriculture Ministry, the Education Committee and Anonymous consented to the temporary publication of two regulations that all the parties agree to and that do not require financial investment on the part of the farmers. The first regulation imposes a sweeping ban on withholding water from the calves. The second regulation requires farmers to provide calves that are at least four weeks old with solid food.