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Animal rights group welcomes commitment on veal crates

Crates are about to go packing, as three major grocery retailers confirm their support for an end to veal produced in individual pens

Three major grocery chains in Canada have confirmed they will no longer sell veal produced in confinement systems by 2018, but they aren’t crowing about it.

Loblaw, Sobeys and Metro have made all made recent commitments to move away from veal raised in crates, but none made any formal announcement to mark the occasion.

A release issued by Humane Societies International’s Canadian arm late last week linked the move by the three grocery chains to recent undercover footage filmed and released by the animal rights activist group Mercy for Animals, which shows calves being abused, beaten and shot.

Sayara Thurston, a campaign manager with Humane Society International said her organization welcomes the move made by the retailers.

“Confining newborn calves in tiny crates where they can barely move is an inhumane practice that causes immeasurable suffering to these infant animals, and we urge the entire veal industry to take steps to transition away from these archaic intensive confinement systems as soon as possible, in favour of open-housing systems that give calves more opportunity to move and interact with other animals,” Thurston said.

Canada has also failed to keep pace with other countries when it comes to veal production, she added.

The European Union officially banned veal crates in 2006, but some countries within the EU banned them as early as 1990.

However, Canadian veal producers are now moving away from crate production as well, according to Kevin Groh, vice-president of corporate affairs and communications for Loblaw.

“We do not condone animal abuse and have been working with industry partners and animal welfare experts to ensure animal welfare standards and Codes of Practice are in place to promote the care, protection and safety of farm animals,” he said in an emailed statement. “We are aware of a recent video aired by CTV’s ‘W5.’ We have notified our supplier of our concern and we will continue to monitor the situation as the company investigates.”

The Loblaw representative also noted the company “supports the voluntary commitment by the Ontario and Quebec milk-fed industry to eliminate the practice of raising milk-fed veal in individual stalls.”

Keri Scobie of Sobey’s western office confirmed that all stores in that chain, including its IGA stores in Quebec, will be eliminating veal crates from their supply chain by 2018.

“The whole industry is moving that way… everyone who is supplying veal is going to be compliant with this — industry is going in this direction,” she said.

Veal tends to be a bigger seller in Eastern Canada than on the Prairies, Scobie said, but added that stores stock it wherever there is a demand.

In 2012, 335,000 calves were slaughtered for human consumption in Canada, according to Humane Societies International.

That’s an increase from 2011, when 235,037 veal calves were raised on 1,235 Canadian farms. Fifty-two per cent of Canadian veal production occurs in Quebec, 45 per cent in Ontario. The remaining three per cent is split between Alberta and British Columbia.

About the author

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Shannon VanRaes is a journalist and photojournalist at the Manitoba Co-operator. She also writes a weekly urban affairs column for Metro Winnipeg, and has previously reported for the Winnipeg Sun, Outwords Magazine and the Portage Daily Graphic.

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