, Newburyport, MA

October 30, 2013

The reason some calves are separated from mothers

Newburyport Daily News

---- — To the editor:

I lived and worked on a small New Hampshire dairy farm, probably very much like Sunshine Dairy Farm. I was in charge of the care and feeding of these “separated” calves. While I have no intention to hurt the reputation of any small and local farm, the information in the article of Oct. 23’s Daily News (”Cows missing calves”) was very misleading.

There is only one reason these calves are separated from their mothers, and they are never going to be reunited with any other cows. They are male calves and will not be producing milk for the farm, thus they are destined to be the tender veal on the menu at your favorite restaurant. They are called “veal calves” or “vealers.”

I have seen how frightened and extremely distressed these little calves and their mothers are at being separated and witnessed the heart-rending calling between calves and mothers for days and on into the nights. These are babies, as sweet and cute as any lambs, puppies or kittens. At a day old, the calves are placed alone (often chained) in pens that are small enough that they can walk only a few steps forward and backward, and turn around and lay down — no romping or eating any field grasses. They are strictly and frequently fed only out of large nippled bottles on a schedule. All of the above “care” prevents the healthy strengthening and firming up of muscle tissue, keeping it “melt in your mouth tender” for the dinner plate. They can’t have straw bedding because they will eat it and because they suffer frequent diarrhea (called scouring) due to their deficient diet, they will often have to lie in their own excrement.

They are desperate for physical contact and cry a lot around feeding times. They live in these pens for their entire lives of 18-20 weeks. At the time of slaughter they are often unable to walk because of no muscle tone. Farms often keep their pens out of sight of visitors because it becomes obvious pretty fast that these little calves have a very sad life. Even if their pens are kept clean and they are not chained, it is an inhumane existence. I am not a strict vegetarian, but I can tell you that after caring for these little calves, I never had any desire to eat veal again, and I have a sad feeling whenever I drive past a farm with visible calf pens.

There is more to know than you have read here and you can go to It is not about refraining from eating meat, it is about the humane and responsible raising of it.

Deb Silke