Something to bear in mind as Mother’s Day approaches…

Next time you eat a piece of meat, take a moment to think about the fact that it had a mother.

If it’s pork you’re eating – think about that piglet being removed from it’s mother within just a few days of being born and slaughtered within 3 – 6 months.

If it’s lamb you’re eating – know that it was removed from its mother within a few months of being born and killed within 3 – 10 months.

lamb cute leap leaping jump jumping spring float levitate play playing sheep

If it’s chicken you’re eating – know that it was never even allowed to meet it’s mother and was killed within 6 weeks of being born.

Animal Wallpapers

If it’s beef you’re eating – know that they have been slaughtered within just 1 to 2 years.

loving mother cow and her calf

If it’s dairy you’re eating, know that the calf which this mother had to bear in order for you to steal and consume her milk, was taken away within the first 2 days of its life and either shot or slaughtered at 16 – 20 weeks for veal.


And if this thought alone doesn’t make you reconsider eating meat then please take a long hard look at these photos and ask yourself how you can possibly justify stealing any animal’s young away from them for the brutal and shameful act of slaughter, merely because you like the way they taste.

These beautiful images are all from this website:


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Photo: teendotcom/Tumblr


Photo: protect-our-animals/Tumblr


Photo: viktor_alexandrov2010 via magicalnaturetour/Tumblr


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Live and Let Live

Have just watched this feature length documentary on veganism and would highly recommend it to everyone, vegan or not.

It examines our relationship with animals, the history of veganism and the ethical, environmental and health reasons that move people to go vegan.
Food scandals, climate change, lifestyle diseases and ethical concerns move more and more people to reconsider eating animals and animal products. From butcher to vegan chef, from factory farmer to farm sanctuary owner – Live and Let Live tells the stories of six individuals who decided to stop consuming animal products for different reasons and shows the impact the decision has had on their lives.
Philosophers such as Peter Singer, Tom Regan and Gary Francione join scientists T. Colin Campbell and Jonathan Balcombe and many others to shed light on the ethical, health and environmental perspectives of veganism.
Through these stories, Live and Let Live showcases the evolution of veganism from its origins in London 1944 to one of the fastest growing lifestyles worldwide, with more and more people realising what’s on their plates matters to animals, the environment and ultimately – themselves.

And it has a lovely soundtrack too…

The catch 22 of veal…


The cruellest foods we eat #3: Veal


The below article published in The Telegraph a week ago made me half want to laugh and half want to cry.  On the one hand – yes, if you’re going to eat dairy then you might as well eat veal I guess.  Thousands of unwanted calves is just one of the many necessary evils of the dairy industry that no one likes talking about.  To get cows producing milk, they’ve got to have produced a calf, but then if we want to steal her milk then we have to take the calf out of the equation.  The options – bullet, veal or export. None are very appealing but these sadly are the fate of every single calf born to a dairy cow and if you don’t want to be part of this horrid cycle then you need to stop consuming dairy.

But surely the whole blindingly obvious point is that none of these is preferable to leaving these calves alone to enjoy the milk from their mother, the milk that was intended for them, the milk that we humans do not need.

There are several gems in this article but here are a few of my favourites:

‘Brend’s animals go to the abattoir at six months, which means they don’t have to be dehorned or castrated as older beasts often are. And yes, it’s not very old – but it’s a similar age to pigs and lambs. Alice Swift, Sainsbury’s beef and dairy agricultural manager and a farmer’s daughter herself, insisted, “It’s the number of happy days that count.” ‘  Oh well that’s ok then.  SERIOUSLY?!?!

‘After all, we have to find something to do with the male calves from the dairy industry – so yes, vegetarians, you need to listen up too, as veal is a by-product of cheese, cream and milk.’ – umm… or we could just stop eating dairy altogether and hey presto, problem solved.

‘Some farmers have resorted to shooting the male calves soon after birth, which Brend insisted to me that they hated doing. “But it’s better than just leaving them to starve,”’.  Well quite… how compassionate of you Mr Brend.

Anyway – there’s plenty more illogical, nonsensical gobbledygook in the article which I’ll leave you to discover for yourself…


Why it’s time to welcome back veal

The production of veal got a bad name in the Eighties but higher-welfare practices mean we can now enjoy this delicate meat without the guilt trip.

When farmer Mike Brend sits in his office, the view through the picture windows is not of the Devon countryside around his farm. He looks straight into the long airy shed that houses his kindergarten of calves, some close enough to lick the window in front of his laptop. The young stirks – farmerspeak for a bull calves – are surplus from one of the 320 dairy farms that supply Sainsbury’s with their milk, and will produce the supermarket’s higher-welfare veal.

And no, before you shudder, veal isn’t cruel – not this veal anyway, which is endorsed by the RSPCA’s Freedom Food scheme. Times have changed when it comes to veal production. The vilified system of housing veal calves in crates so small they can’t even turn around was outlawed in the UK in 1990. Europe followed in 2007, although according to Compassion in World Farming, on the Continent the animals are often kept in sheds with slatted floors, rather than the higher-maintenance but more comfortable straw that Brend’s calves enjoy.

In fact, it’s time we rehabilitated the pale, delicate meat that has a long gastronomic tradition in dishes such as osso bucco and saltimbocca. After all, we have to find something to do with the male calves from the dairy industry – so yes, vegetarians, you need to listen up too, as veal is a by-product of cheese, cream and milk.

The problem is (and apologies to those of you who already know this) that to keep a dairy cow producing milk, she has to calve regularly – around every 13 or 14 months is usual. When the calf is a female, she can grow up to be a dairy cow like her mum. But the male calves fetch as little as £5 a head at market, and as adults the dairy bulls and bullocks (aka steers, castrated males) are felt not to make good beef. The carcass has a low meat-to-bone ratio, and the prime cuts, the sirloin and the fillet, are smaller. The result is that they are classified as the lowest grade, P for Poor, at the abattoir and fetch as little as a pound a kilo, not enough for the farmer to break even on feed and care costs.

Traditionally the male dairy calves would have had value as veal, as the younger animals show a decent yield. But since the anti-veal-crate protests of the Eighties, the British have rejected the meat wholesale as inhumane. Some farmers have resorted to shooting the male calves soon after birth, which Brend insisted to me that they hated doing. “But it’s better than just leaving them to starve,” he shrugged as we strolled out to meet the contented-looking black-and-white calves in the shed he spent £200,000 building to his own design. “Veal’s had a bad press. This is a chance to rebuild public perception.”



Brend is not alone with his passion to bring veal back. A small but growing number of frustrated farmers have returned to veal production, attempting to bring around the British to eating ethical veal. Most are producing rose veal, a pink-coloured meat, darker than traditional veal, made with young animals up to about eight months old, raised on beef feed. Some, but not all, will go out to pasture in the summer months, and a very small number, like those produced at Helen Browning’s Eastbrook Farm, continue to feed from a “nurse cow”, usually a retired dairy cow rather than the actual mother.

Sainsbury’s scheme is different on a couple of counts. One is that the farmers are guaranteed a price for their veal calves that is “decoupled” from the market price. This means it is based on cost of production and a reasonable profit, regardless of the fluctuating market price, something that Brend, a first-generation farmer with three children under five to support, finds reassuring.

The second difference is the one that matters to cooks. The calves are fed on a diet of just milk along with barley straw, essential for the roughage to allow their guts to develop properly. The result is a pale veal that is closer to traditional, old-fashioned veal in flavour, but without the appalling welfare issues.

Brend’s animals go to the abattoir at six months, which means they don’t have to be dehorned or castrated as older beasts often are. And yes, it’s not very old – but it’s a similar age to pigs and lambs. Alice Swift, Sainsbury’s beef and dairy agricultural manager and a farmer’s daughter herself, insisted, “It’s the number of happy days that count.”

Only a couple of thousand calves are raised this way a year, in six farms as well as Brend’s, a fraction of the total number of male calves born on Sainsbury’s farms. But the market is growing and Sainsbury’s recently hit £1  million worth of sales in the 18 months it has stocked higher-welfare veal. And looking ahead, Compassion in World Farming would like to see a movement back to mixed-use herds, where most of the cows are impregnated with beef-breed sperm, such as Angus. The resultant mixed-breed calves can be reared for beef, while the mother goes back into milk production.

Back home, I cooked up two veal escalopes, one indoor-reared rose veal from Brookfield Farm in Dorset, the other milk fed from Brend’s herd. Raw, they looked much the same colour, a muted red. But once cooked, the difference was striking. The rose veal was darker, a pale beef colour, with a pronounced grain. The milk fed was pale as chicken breast, and fine-grained, velvety textured. Both were delicious, the rose with a clean beefy flavour, while the milk fed was delicate, sweet and, yes, milky – closer to chicken than beef.

So, take your choice. Outdoor-reared rose is probably the gold-standard welfare choice, but bear in mind that in winter at least it is likely to be indoor reared anyway. For flavour, the rose veal is excellent simply cooked but will stand up to stronger sauces too. But for the veal that Escoffier would recognise, for the classic French dishes, the milk fed is the one.

As for the welfare, Helen Browning, chief executive of the Soil Association as well as a farmer, was pragmatic. “This may be a halfway house, but it is a good place all the same.” Just make sure it is British.

Saltimbocca with spring herbs recipe

A classic saltimbocca is a veal escalope with a single sage leaf pressed on to the soft pink meat, then wrapped in a slice of air-dried ham, before frying in butter. It’s excellent, salty, savoury and sage-y. At this time of year the young top leaves from the traditional hard herbs – rosemary, sage, thyme and bay – have a less powerful flavour, so you can afford to be a little more generous. If you don’t have herbs growing on the windowsill or in the garden, then the tender pots from the supermarket will do very well. Lemon thyme is particularly good.

For each person:

A veal escalope, around 1cm/ ⅜in thick

Two slices of prosciutto

4 or 5 leaves, or tiny sprigs from the very tops of sage, rosemary, lemon thyme or bay – tender and soft

1 tsp unsalted butter

2 tbsp white wine


Lay the veal on a chopping board and, with the base of a saucepan, bash it until it is about the thickness of a pound coin. Cut the escalope in half and press the leaves on to the veal, spacing them well. Wrap each piece in prosciutto – depending on the size of your escalope and ham, you may need only half a slice per half escalope. Chill, covered, until you need them.

To cook, drop the butter into a hot frying pan, and when it is foaming add the saltimboccas. Cook until lightly browned on each side – be very careful not to overdo the meat. Lift the saltimboccas on to a warm plate, then add the wine to the pan, stirring and scraping as it bubbles. Pour over the meat and serve with Jersey royals and purple sprouting broccoli, plus a lemon wedge to squeeze over.


What’s the deal with veal?

im only a baby

I think veal sums up everything that is bizarre and cruel about eating meat.  Veal is the meat of bull calves – usually from dairy cattle.  These calves are taken away from their mothers at around a day old and then kept in hutches, stalls or indoor sheds to restrict movement so as to prevent connective tissue from developing as the paler the meat the better the quality is considered.  Nice.

And of course these are the lucky ones.  Or unlucky ones. Depends on how you see it.  Up to 99,000 are still shot every year and over 10,000 exported to the continent because the demand for veal in this country is obviously nothing like the demand for dairy so there is a huge surplus of male dairy calves.  Just imagine a pile of 99,000 dead day old male calves – what a heinous waste – just so that we can have our milk and cheese.  How can a pint of semi-skimmed milk or a chunk of cheddar ever justify the barbaric means?

Veal has always been a controversial issue in terms of animal welfare but there are improvements happening and people are becoming more aware.

Multiple animal welfare organizations, who strongly focus on factory farming, have spent decades trying to educate consumers about several veal production procedures they consider to be inhumane. This education has proven successful in creating pressure on the industry, resulting in changes in the methods used by the veal industry over the past 30 years or so.

Living space was always a huge issue of concern and a strong animal welfare movement concerning veal started in the 1980s with the release of photographs of veal calves tethered in crates where they could barely move. After the release of these photographs, veal sales plummeted, and have never recovered.


Veal crates thank became illegal in the UK in 1990, and a full ban was placed for the entire European Union in 2007.  The American Veal Association has announced their plan to phase out the use of crates by 2017.  So that’s at least progress.

Although not common in the UK, veal farms are widespread on the continent. Around six million calves are reared for veal within the EU every year. The biggest EU producers are France (over 1.4 million calves), the Netherlands (1.5 million calves) and Italy (almost 800,000 calves).

If you insist on eating veal then here’s a good article with guidelines on how to do it as ethically as you can from the website:

What’s the deal with ethical veal?

What's the deal with ethical veal?

 You know that a golden rule is to never eat veal if you care about animal welfare. Right?

Well, it is not quite that simple.  The veal industry rightly got a very bad name due to the use of veal crates, one of the most bizarre and cruel ways to keep calves it is possible to come up with.  Fortunately, the crates were banned in the UK in 1990 and eventually banned across the EU in 2006.  But while crates may be a thing of the past and the calves have to be given some roughage as part of their diet, the standards for rearing veal calves in the EU are still lower than those required in Britain.  It’s not just the amount of space provided that is different.  Calves on the continent don’t have to be given straw bedding once they are more than two weeks old and EU legislation does not require their diet to be sufficiently iron-rich to avoid the animals becoming anaemic.  All-in-all, it is hardly surprising that veal has disappeared from the welfare-conscious shopper’s trolley.  But if you eat meat, like a drop of milk in your tea or a slice of cheese in your sandwich, it is time to think again.

There is a very strong argument for eating veal – but only British high-welfare or British rose veal*. About 10,000 male British dairy calves were killed last year, simply for being the wrong sex and unable to produce milk. With the ban on live transport lifted, a further shocking 11,000 were shipped abroad last year – and the live transport trade is growing. Animal lovers are rightly concerned about the fact that live calves are transported over these distances, sometimes in appalling conditions and having experienced the trauma of auction, to live in conditions illegal in the UK.  It’s an issue Compassion in World Farming and the RSPCA have been trying to tackle through a forum on veal calf exports they set up in 2006.  A recent RSPCA survey revealed consumers are really concerned about live transport and an epetition against the live export of calves is currently gathering signatures ( .

British high welfare veal provides another, ethical option. Calves can be reared in the UK where legally they have to be given bedding and a proper diet that not only ensures their digestive systems can develop normally, but also ensures they do not become anaemic. Choose veal with the Freedom Food logo and the animals will have been reared to RSPCA standards, which ensures higher welfare.

Farmers like Freedom Food member David Tory are raising British veal calves which are free to run around with pen mates and in fact have a longer life than chicken, pigs, turkeys and lamb!

Your choices make such a difference – so always make sure it’s British high-welfare veal – whether you are cooking at home or eating out.

*Freedom Food labelled British high welfare veal comes from calves reared to the RSPCA welfare standards, slaughtered between 6 and 12 months.  They must have evidence that their blood haemoglobin is above accepted levels.  Calves slaughtered between 8 and 12 months can also be called ‘rose’ veal.