USDA Announces New Rules on Downed Veal Calves

downed veal calf

Update Feb. 11, 2011: The U.S. Dept. of Agriculture has issued in the Federal Register notice granting a petition submitted by the Humane Society of the United States to amend Food Safety and Inspection Service regulations "to remove the
provision that allows veal calves that are non-ambulatory disabled
because they are tired or cold to be set aside to be warmed or rested 
9 CFR 309.13(b)."
This is called the veal calves set aside provision.

Instead, "all non-ambulatory disabled veal calves [would] be immediately and humanely euthanized". This new regulation will close a loophole in the treatment of downed cows.

The FSIS observed: "The Agency is concerned that the veal calves set-aside provision may create an incentive for establishments to inhumanely force non-ambulatory disabled veal calves to rise and for veal calf producers to send weakened calves to slaughter.  The Agency also believes that prohibiting the slaughter of all non-ambulatory disabled veal calves may remove potential uncertainty in determining the disposition of calves that have been set aside and would be consistent with the requirements for the other classes of non-ambulatory disabled cattle."

Though the HSUS petition to amend the regulations has been granted, FSIS is allowing further public comment until April 8, 2011. More than 58,000 people have already submitted comments. Go here for more information about the HSUS petition and where you can write in support of these new regulations. Read Animal Law Coalition’s report below for information about the HSUS undercover investigation that prompted the call for new regulations. The investigation led to a felony conviction for aggravated animal cruelty. The abusive employee and former owner of the slaughter house are barred from any animal husbandry or slaughterhouse activity involving live animals. For more…..

There remains pending a petition filed by Farm Sanctuary that would extend this requirement to all other downed "livestock" species including pigs, goats, sheep and the like.

You can help stop at least this cruelty. Send your comments in support of the HSUS and Farm Sanctuary petitions: Go to http://
. Follow the online instructions at that site for
submitting comments. Or, send to Docket Clerk, U.S. Department of
Agriculture (USDA), FSIS, Room 2-2127, George Washington Carver Center,
5601 Sunnyside Avenue, Beltsville, MD 20705-5272. Instructions: All items submitted by mail or electronic mail must  include the Agency name and docket number FSIS-2010-0041.

Nonambulatory disabled animals, regardless of species, should be humanely euthanized.

Read more about the Humane Methods of Slaughter Act which requires no animal should be slaughtered while conscious.

Original report Nov., 2009: A U.S. Dept. of Agriculture regulation, 9 CFR 309.13(b), has meant brutally cruel treatment for veal calves.

 The regulation states that "[v]eal calves that are unable to rise from a recumbent position and walk because they are tired or cold may also be set apart and held…. The U.S. Condemned identification tag will be removed by a Program employee following treatment under such supervision if the animal is found to be free from any such disease."

In other words, unlike other non-ambulatory or "downed" cows, calves used for veal can still be slaughtered instead of humanely euthanized. Indeed, the Humane Society of the United States recently released undercover video that captured terrible treatment of these animals at the Bushway Packing Inc plant in Grand Isle, Vermont. A USDA inspector is said to have stood by and allowed the owner of the plant and its employees mercilessly drag, shove, beat, kick, and use electric prods, sometimes with water to make it worse, on calves that could not stand on their own. The animals were slaughtered while alive. For more, see the video below. It is egregious, vicious animal cruelty.

The USDA and Vermont Agency of Agriculture have shut down this plant pending an investigation.

In response to the video, Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack said in a press release: "The deplorable scenes recorded in the video released by the Humane Society of the United States are unequivocally unacceptable. The callous behavior and attitudes displayed in the video clearly appear to be violations of USDA’s humane handling regulations.

"USDA’s Food Safety and Inspection Service (FSIS) is investigating these alleged violations of the Humane Methods of Slaughter Act (HMSA). FSIS took immediate action with respect to its employee and the establishment upon preliminary verification of the incident. The Department fully supports the investigation of all those involved in these alleged violations of the HMSA. To this end, I have also called on our Inspector General to conduct a criminal investigation of the events in the video."

Veal calves are brutally treated their whole lives, long before they reach a slaughter house like Bushway. 

Veal calves are those male calves that are unwanted and removed from their mothers immediately after birth; they are confined often by tethers for life in tiny 2′ wide stalls where they cannot move. The close confinement is calculated not only to encourage weight gain, but also to keep their muscles weak to ensure their meat will be tender.

The calves are fed a liquid milk diet. The diet is deficient in iron and fiber and is actually designed to cause anemia to give their meat that light color. The calves are not given any bedding or straw for fear they will eat it and cause their meat to be dark. Instead, they lie on slats that allow their urine and feces to fall through to a pit below. The inadequate diet causes abnormal gut development and stomach ulcerations; the calves are prone to illness and disease.

veal calvesThe calves suffer great frustration, boredom, and stress as a result of isolation from their mothers and herd. They are prevented from grazing, grooming, stretching, all important behaviors for them. They enjoy no natural behaviors or interactions.  

The European Union bans treatment of veal calves in this way.

Regardless, non-ambulatory veal calves should not be subjected to such brutality or slaughtered at all.

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