LETTERS:Humane, profitable alternative to veal

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The Independent Online
From Mr A. D. Bromley Sir: The present furore over the export of dairy calves for continental veal production is an instinctive expression of revulsion to an inhumane system that separates infants from their mothers, to their mutual distress, and after atraumatic welter of auction rings and long-distance journeys ends their short days in a tiny dark crate. It is small wonder that the present market for veal in the UK is almost non-existent.

There is a good alternative. Some years ago, when I ran a hobby smallholding, I bought a couple of three-day old Jersey bull calves direct from local farmer, just before Christmas. They cost £5 each. Had I not bought them, they would have been sent to make dog meat. There was no market for them; I was told that "they would not fatten, all the musculature was on the forequarters, and any fat marbling would be yellow."

We reared the two calves initially on reconstituted milk powder through a teat feeder, but they soon learnt to drink from a bucket. They were bedded on straw in modest stalls and when they were weaned and the spring grass came through, they were turned out in the paddocks.

They spent an unstressed (apart from castration) and reasonably natural life throughout the spring, summer and autumn of that year. At 11 months they were large, boisterous adolescents and we took them to the local abattoir for slaughter.

The end product was "baby beef" - small joints of very tender and flavoursome meat showing almost no fat of any colour at all. We sold one carcass and the price more than paid for the feeding, veterinary attention, slaughter and butchery of both. It was a most successful experiment, but one we did not repeat owing to pressure of other commitments.

I am absolutely sure that a profitable market could be developed in Britain for such meat, humanely reared on British farms, and it would help to restore the tarnished image of an important industry, while making proper use of resources.

Yours faithfully, A. D. Bromley Kendal, Cumbria 13 January

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