Netherlands plans on drastic changes in calf farming
The Ministry of Agriculture is planning changes which will cause the veal sector to shrink or even completely disappear.
Currently, calves that were born from cows solely to stimulate their milk production are taken from their mothers after fourteen days to fatten them before they are butchered. Companies often also import calves from abroad which make up around half of the 1.5 million calves slaughtered every year. The changes in legislature would mean the end of the current calf fattening business in the Netherlands, the NOS reports.
In the future, calves will have to stay with the dairy farmer for longer or even their entire lives and foreign imports will be restricted. The recommendations are too controversial to be dealt with by the outgoing Cabinet. The topic will likely be part of the discussion during the new Cabinet’s formation.
According to a report conducted under the supervision of the Ministry of Agriculture and the Dutch Environmental Assessment Agency, this will change the role of the dairy farmer. At the moment, 70 percent of all calves born go straight to the meat industry.
The market for surplus calves has been a lucrative business since the 1960s. In this market the Netherlands has taken first place in Europe when it comes to size. 90 percent of the veal produced in the Netherlands is exported.
The sector, however, often receives heavy backlash. One reason is the high mortality rate among calves due to them not being able to strengthen their immune system through their mother’s milk. Calves are also shipped over long distances putting a strain on their health. To compensate for the young animals’ poor health, they are often fed large amounts of antibiotics which lead to bacteria becoming resistant to the medications.
Calf farming puts a strain on the climate as well. The manure created through the production of veal often causes damage to the environment. In 2019, Minister of Agriculture, Carola Schouten, launched an investigation on the sustainability of veal farming.
The report concluded that “the limited sales in the Netherlands, combined with the import of calves questions the right to produce.” Experts came up with three different scenarios in all of which the distance calves are shipped is greatly reduced and the import of calves is heavily restricted or completely forbidden. In one of the scenarios, calves will be allowed to remain on the dairy farm their entire lives and have access to unlimited drinking and higher quality bedding.
The financial and economic consequences of the changes were not calculated in the report.