The deal with veal

Dairy RSPCA Approved Veal / 12th Jul 2018

You might’ve seen that the RSPCA Approved Farming Scheme now includes animal welfare standards for dairy veal. In Australia dairy veal isn’t widely available in supermarkets or on restaurant menus, so how is the RSPCA hoping to improve the lives of dairy calves with these standards?

This might sound obvious but in order for a dairy cow to produce milk, they must have a calf once a year. Female calves will often be raised to become part of the milking herd, while male calves who don’t produce milk, are seen as surplus to farm requirements – they are effectively a by-product of dairy farming. And because of the breed of these calves they’re generally not the veal cuts you might see on the supermarket shelf or restaurant menus – this veal is usually produced from beef cattle farmed for 6-12 months.

How many calves are we talking about?
In Australia, around 675,000 male dairy calves (known as bobby calves) are born alive every year. While some are raised until they’re older for either veal or beef, the vast majority are either killed on farm at birth or in the case of around 450,000 male calves, they’re destined for slaughter at a mere five days old because there isn’t currently a market for them.

Adding value to improve welfare
Many Australians value dairy in their diets and while dairy-free alternatives are available for those who choose not to consume dairy products, the RSPCA knows that to improve welfare for these calves today, we need a workable solution.

Since releasing the RSPCA’s animal welfare standards for dairy veal, we’ve been talking to farmers about the value of keeping these calves, raising them to better welfare standards and as popularity for dairy veal grows, ensuring a humanely farmed product is readily available for Australian consumers and food service.

For good welfare, calves need a focus on health and nutrition, comfortable housing with bedding to rest and room to move around, the opportunity to express natural calf behaviours, like suckling and chewing, and of course the company of other calves to play and socialise. In addition to this the people caring for the calves should be well trained in low-stress handling. Painful practices like castration, disbudding, hot iron branding and tethering prohibited, and importantly, calves must be transported and slaughtered humanely.

Where to from here?
With the RSPCA’s standards we’re encouraging farmers to raise dairy calves in a way that gives them a life worth living, gives consumers the confidence to support a humanely farmed product and ultimately helps reduce the number of bobby calves treated as by-products of dairy farming.

If you’re interested in buying humanely-farmed veal, get in touch with the brands you spot in the supermarket or when eating out – and let them know animal welfare is important to you.

Want more? What’s the deal with dairy? and Why does the RSPCA support humane food?


  1. Calves should be left with their mother, and the surplus milk sold. Nothing else is acceptable. In a world where water is insufficient, it should be kept to grow fruits, vegetable and grain. Cattle and sheep kept to a very minimum.

  2. Silvia Ford says:

    I wasn’t expecting my comment to be published. Not at all surprised. , Very few people have a URL so I know that wasn’t the reason. I see that all the other comments have been removed as well. Nothing changes with the RSPCA does it. You will be left so far behind.

  3. Silvia Ford says:

    So after you have read those innumerable comments that you have now removed are you now able to see how out of step the RSPCA is with the general population.k Animals are not here in order to be killed as food for humans and I am appalled that the management of the RSPCA are still unable to accept thiis.
    If you are not going to change then you need to change your blurb to “RSPCA-For All Creatures Great and Small,, Except the ones we like to Eat”.

  4. Callie Balke says:

    In this day and age, surely there is technology that could ensure that male calves do not become a by-product of the dairy industry…. like using IVF to ensure only female calves are born. Or using hormonal therapy for the cows so that they do not have to have a calf every year? Surely there must be a better solution! If not, money should be put into research to allow dairy production (and eggs) without causing the deaths of male babies!

  5. So the easiest answer then is to go vegan, and promote this to consumers?

    It’s the best way to prevent cruelty and needless inhumane slaughter to animals, which is what RSPCA is all about.

    Not to mention the environmental, health and animal to human pathogen transmission benefits.

    • Hi Robin

      There’s no doubt that many Australians choose not to consume animal products because they object to the farming and killing of animals for food. This is a valid viewpoint and one the RSPCA respects. However, there are also many Australians who accept that animals are slaughtered for food, and want to see this done in a way that shows compassion. The RSPCA respects this choice too.

      While ever farming continues, we at the RSPCA believe we have an obligation to improve the lives of those animals as much as we can. We consider it an important responsibility to advocate for enriched environments, and that animals are handled, transported and slaughtered in the most humane way possible. Otherwise the outcomes for those animals on farms now would be far worse.

      You can read more about our approach to improving the lives of farm animals here.

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