Despite the British dairy industry's efforts to put a stop to, or dial back the practice, many young male calves continue to be killed at birth, as reported by The Guardian.It's much cheaper for breeders to rid themselves of the animal in the first few hours of its life than it is to sell them later: £9 (a little more than $12) compared to£30 ($40). According to recent figures, 95,000 male calves are killed each year for this reason.
Source: Channel 4
So why kill them? Quite simply they don't produce milk, meaning they are useless to dairy farmers. There are several solutions to this; one of them being to slaughter them by shooting them in the head, either themselves or by a specialist "knackerman". They can also sell the calf to be raised for veal or beef, or they can sell it for live export.The first option is still the preferred one by a long way, despite the cruelty involved. Calves killed by gunfire can't be used for human consumption, and are often used for dog food instead.In 2003, only 13% of male calves were killed at birth, but these figures increased over the following years to reach, 21%according to the most recent estimates.
Source: Farmers Weekly
Protests against animal exploitation on ships - and the terrible conditions that they endure during these journeys - have pushed farmers to turn away from exporting the calves to other countries where there is more of a market for veal.Most large supermarket chains don't ban their suppliers from killing male calves, but a step in this direction could discourage people from engaging in this particular practice. Killing male calves in this way is not illegal. As such, some groups such as AHDB Dairy have decided to take action to make sure that young calves are properly brought up and not destroyed at birth.
Brexit could make the situation yet more difficult for British farmers, who may struggle to find a market to sell their animals on.Siân Davies, an advisor to the British National Farmers' Union, explained to The Guardian:
A trade deal that allows cheap beef from countries with lower standards of production will most definitely damage many of the positive initiatives that have been developed over recent years to utilise dairy bull calf beef and veal within the UK market.
Nonetheless, some farmers are trying to find an ethical solution to the problem. Farmer David Finlay keeps his male and female calves up to the age of 5 months, without separating them from their mother. The calves are sold for meat at 8 months old.
Source: Murdo McLeod/The Guardian
Unfortunately, due to cuts, many farmers continue to opt to kill the calves after birth.