National policy for care of veal cattle not good enough, says Montreal SPCA

Montreal's SPCA says the draft version of a Canada-wide policy for the treatment of veal cattle doesn't go far enough to protect calves' welfare. The animal rights group points to one case of animal abuse three years ago in Pont Rouge, Que.

Public comment period for veal cattle code of practice closes on Feb. 14

A Mercy for Animals Canada investigation used a hidden camera to capture practicies on a veal farm in Pont Rouge, Que. in 2014. (Mercy for Animals Canada)

The draft version of a Canada-wide policy for the treatment of veal cattle is receiving poor reviews from Montreal's SPCA.

The animal welfare advocacy group is concerned the draft Code of Practice for the Care and Handling of Veal Cattle, prepared by industry groups, does not do enough to protect calves from mistreatment. 

The SPCA points to one case of animal abuse three years ago in Pont Rouge, Que., where an employee was fined $4,000 for mistreating veal calves. 

An animal advocacy lawyer for the Montreal SPCA said, aside from the physical abuse in that case, the general state of the calves' living quarters was what struck her the most.

"Really the most horrific part of the footage was seeing these baby calves either chained or crammed into crates so narrow they could barely turn around and just desperate for social contact ... and this is what the code fails to address," Sophie Gaillard said.

She hopes Canadian veal farmers will look abroad for inspiration.

"In Europe, veal calves have to be raised in group housing. They're often kept indoors but they're raised in groups. This would represent a huge improvement in terms of welfare without having any adverse effect on meat quality." 

Open to constructive feedback

The general manager of the National Farm Animal Care Council, one of the groups that helped prepare the policy, said they're open to suggestions — that's the whole idea of the public comment period.

"Every comment that is received is collated and the code development committee reviews all constructive feedback that's received," Jackie Wepruk said.

She said it's important that the policy balances animal welfare while also creating a standard that farmers can realistically implement.

Gaillard said their recommendations are not far-fetched.

"In Europe, veal crates have been banned for a number of years now, and yet in Europe veal is still produced."

The Montreal SPCA plans to submit a list of recommendations.

The public comment period for the veal cattle code of practice closes on Feb. 14. The final version is expected by the fall.