What does Compassion in World Farming - Ireland want?
Each year, thousands of young calves are exported from the Republic of Ireland to veal
production units on the Continent. Young calves are particularly poor travellers according to scientific studies, and
Continental veal units can be intensive and barren. Compassion in World Farming - Ireland wants Irish calves to be reared
humanely in Ireland as an alternative to exporting them to the Continent.
Veal is the name of the light-coloured meat from young calves. It is widely eaten on the Continent and is
commonly found on restaurant menus in France, Belgium and Italy. Although not so popular, veal is sold in
The main veal producing countries in Europe are France, Belgium, the Netherlands and Italy. Irish calves are exported
to veal units on the Continent, mainly to the Netherlands and, to a lesser extent, Belgium.
There are different production methods for veal, some much more humane than others. These are
Veal crates banned
The EU introduced a ban on veal crates in January 2007, making their use illegal in all EU countries. The EU law says
calves up to 8 weeks old may be kept in individual pens where they can turn around and be in contact with other calves.
After this, they must be reared in groups. Veal rearing is normally indoors, with no access to outdoors, and this is
permitted by EU law.
Are Irish calves used in veal production in other countries?
Thousands of Irish calves are exported to the Continent each year, many for veal production. These calves are
separated from their mothers at only a few days old. They are transported on long journeys when they are
only a few weeks old, to veal production systems in Continental Europe, mainly the Netherlands and, to a lesser extent,
What age are Irish calves when they are exported?
Irish calves are exported to the Continent when they are a few weeks old. The Netherlands, which is the main destination
for Irish calves, requires calves less than 35 days old*. Generally, most calves are less than 2 months old when they are
exported to the Continent.
(*Irish Farmers' Journal, 28/8/2010)
What route are they taken on?
Typically, Irish calves face a journey by road to a port in Ireland, then a
sea-crossing by ferry to the Continent (Ireland to France, which takes around 18.5 hours), and finally another road journey to their
destination on the Continent.
Some calves may be taken on the 'land-bridge' route via Britain. This involves travel to an Irish port, a ferry journey
to Britain, a road journey down through Britain, another ferry journey from Britain to the Continent, and then a road journey to
the destination veal unit in, for example, the Netherlands.
Scientific studies have shown that young calves are poor travellers and are prone to becoming
ill, particularly in the weeks following their journey.
What systems are used on the Continent to produce veal?
After the veal crate ban came into effect, the intensive veal industry in the Netherlands (which is the main destination
for Irish calves) moved to group housing systems. Many of these are barren indoor systems with slatted floors and little
space for the calves as they grow bigger. The photo (right) shows Irish calves in one of these barren veal units
in the Netherlands).
Are there any veal production systems that are more humane?
There are humane veal systems where groups of calves are kept indoors with natural light, plenty of straw and room to move around
freely. The veal from these more welfare-friendly systems is usually called 'rose veal'. The photo (left) shows a humane
veal system in the UK.
Compassion in World Farming - Ireland believes that humane veal production in Ireland would be a better
alternative to exporting young Irish calves to the Continent.
What can you do?
If you eat veal, you could choose the type that has been produced in a welfare-friendly group housing system where the calves
have plenty of room and straw to lie on. If veal is on a restaurant menu, you could ask them where this veal is from and how
the calves were kept.
Compassion in World Farming believes that young calves should not be forced to
travel long distances. Instead, we want the Irish Government to encourage alternative ways to rear these calves
humanely in Ireland.
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