Veal production: New system spares calves the cruelty of continental crates

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The Independent Online
Animal welfare groups gave a cautious welcome yesterday to a new veal-rearing system unveiled by the Ministry of Agriculture, writes Danny Penman.

Billed as "welfare friendly", the new system aims to produce high-quality veal at competitive prices to displace the variety produced in continental crates.

Groups of 10 calves will be reared in the shed-like units pictured above. Each calf has about three square metres of straw-covered floor space and will be fed on a diet of reformulated milk.

In contrast to the food given to calves in crates, the milk substitute contains iron. White continental veal can only be produced from anaemic animals fed on a diet lacking iron and roughage. The straw will allow the calves' digestive systems to develop normally and prevent them suffering near-constant diarrhoea.

Martin Potter, head of the RSPCA's farm animals department, described the system as an "extremely positive development" and said he would be happy to eat veal from the unit. Peter Stevenson, of Compassion in World Farming, was more guarded: "I'm not thrilled by any veal-rearing system but there is a big difference between the veal crate and this type of loose housing system," he said.

Photograph: Peter Macdiarmid