Undercover video captured by Mercy For Animals Canada has revealed shocking conditions at a veal farm in Quebec.
A member of the animal-rights group worked at the farm in Pont-Rouge for nearly two months from December 2013 to February 2014. The employee took video that shows calves chained up in wooden crates so narrow that the animals cannot turn around
The video also shows workers violently abusing animals and the killing of one calf with a rifle. After the animal does not immediately die, the worker finishes it off with another bullet.
A criminal investigation has been launched to probe the alleged cruelty at the facility, according to the group.
Veal is the meat from young cows that have generally been raised on a milk diet. Exercise is often limited or eliminated completely in order to ensure a tender and light-coloured final product.
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The dairy industry and the veal industry are closely linked. Female cows must be kept impregnated in order for them to yield milk, but the male calves they produce are of no use to their owners. Consequently, they are often sold to veal producers.
The company Délimax Veal, a large Quebec producers, delivers animals to the Pont Rouge farm and picks them up for slaughter. The company does not own the Pont-Rouge farm.
Délimax owner Fabien Fontaine told W5 that the behaviour captured in the video is "sickening and unacceptable" but said the future of veal in Quebec will be more humane. He touted a new Délimax facility in Drummonville where calves are raised together in larger pens. He said such facilities will be the standard in Quebec by 2018.
Mercy for Animals Canada has been successful at triggering change in the past. The organization was pivotal in securing a recent Canada-wide ban on gestation crates in which pigs are unable to turn around.
"Science and common sense tell us that animals with legs should be given at least enough room to walk and exercise,” said Twyla Francois, Mercy For Animals's director of investigations in Canada. “The Canadian veal industry treats baby calves like mere meat-producing machines. Their short lives are filled with misery, violence, and deprivation."
The animal-rights group is calling on the Retail Council of Canada, which represents grocery stores, to eliminate operations like the Pont-Rouge farm from its members' supply chains. Costco, Metro, Sobeys and Loblaw have already signed on to the plan.
Mercy for Animals Canada also recently uncovered that the Maple Leaf Foods-owned Horizon Poultry plant in Hanover, Ontario, is both boiling and grinding up chicks while they are still alive. The video has already led to at least one firing at the plant, but grinding up living animals in a macerator remains an accepted industry practice.