Monday, November 29, 2010

Rant: Brookline Fails With Veal Ban

Silly, short-sighted, narrow minded, politically correct run amok, self-righteous Brookline.  Yes, I am a bit peeved at their latest action. 

At a recent Brookline Town Meeting, they passed a resolution, by a 163-4 vote, banning veal. The resolution urges "...grocers, restaurants, caterers, organizations, and other purveyors of food immediately cease the sale or public serving of veal to the public within the Town of Brookline,..."  IT was an overwhelming vote but how many considered both sides of the issue? Fortunately, this resolution has no legal effect and fails in other ways as well. 

It is even amusing that it won't have much impact in Brookline, as they understood and noted in the resolution by stating that "...few proprietors in Brookline sell or serve veal and hence there would be scant economic implications for local businesses;"   So why waste all that the time and energy to pass this resolution?  The intent seems to be more for "...raising awareness about the issue and encouraging  responsible consumption practices among Brookline residents,.."  But I believe they have failed in that regard, as well as ignoring far greater meat issues which will ultimately have a more important impact on their lives as well as the environment.

Though some news articles claim that the resolution banned only "crated veal," the resolution did not differentiate and simply dealt with veal in general, which would thus also include humanely raised veal.  Why should humanely released veal, such as that produced by Strauss and Azaluna, be banned as well?  By grouping all veal together, humanely raised and not, the resolution leads to greater ignorance rather than greater awareness.  Not all veal is the same and it should not all be treated similarly.  In effect, the resolution creates a stereotype about veal, and that is wrong.  The voters would not accept stereotypes in other areas so why accept it here?

As for "crated veal," efforts are already in place to eliminate it. The American Veal Association announced plans to phase out the practice no later than by 2017. Because of this, each year, more and more farmers end the practice. In Massachusetts, House Bill 815 was filed in 2009 and aims to ban various matters such as battery cages for egg-laying hens, gestation crates for pregnant sows and veal crates. If passed, it would take effect in 2015. 

Rather than acting unilaterally, Brookline's veal resolution should have instead voiced their support for House Bill 815.  That would have better raised public awareness of the issues, especially where such awareness could lead to legal action and accomplish real results. Instead, Brookline passed a resolution which has no legal authority, and ignores the greater issues.  Plus, the Brookline resolution deals only with veal, while House Bill 815, deals with a much broader scope of animal cruelty, including chickens and pigs. Why didn't the Brookline resolution also address cruelty to other animals and not just veal calves?      

What is the true scope of the veal issue?  In reality, it is a much smaller problem than others and it was short-sighted to address only veal in this resolution.  First, consider that in 2007, less than 5% of calves were raised in a group environment but only two years later, this number has increased to 35%.  So, the veal industry has already taken note and has significantly improved their practices.  These figures will continue to improve and the Brookline resolution is really not going to have any impact. 

Second, each year, less than one million calves are slaughtered for veal, and even less are crated veal.  Approximately ten billion animals are slaughtered in the U.S. each year. Ten Billion!  So the amount of veal calves is only about .01% of the total, a relatively tiny amount. If you are truly concerned about cruelty and CAFOs, Confined Animal Feeding Operations, then your primary concern should be for chickens and pigs.  That is a much vaster problem, far outweighing the veal issue. 

For example, almost nine billion chickens, kept confined and crowded in tiny cages, are slaughtered each year.  That is about 90% of the total animals slaughtered in our country each year, which makes that a major problem, far unlike the veal issue. It is very easy to support a ban on veal, to state you won't eat it any longer, but how many in Brookline would have supported a ban on chicken?  I bet a resolution banning chicken in Brookline would never have passed, and the vote would have been overwhelmingly against.      

So Brookline passes an easy resolution without teeth, attempting to seem enlightened and caring. Yet the resolution fails on several grounds, leading only to greater ignorance as well as neglecting far greater problems.  It was a waste of time and effort which would could have been used in so many more beneficial and proactive ways. 

People should be concerned about the food they eat, but they should also examine all sides of an issue.  Relying only on slogans and sound bites accomplishes nothing.  You must carefully consider the evidence, asking questions, accepting nothing at face value.  Be an informed consumer, not a puppet.

Addendum (11/29/10): I must apologize and correct an error in my original post. A Brookline Library Trustee and Town Meeting Member provided me a link to some additional information about the resolution. In the fourth paragraph of my post, I stated that the passed resolution deal with veal in general but that is incorrect. Though the original petition did deal with veal in general, that petition was later amended so that the final resolution dealt only with "crated veal."  So my criticisms in that fourth paragraph are not applicable.


Hector said...

Richard, I couldn't agree with you more. One thing that I think adds to the problem of these industrial chicken and pig farms is the pubic health danger that these places pose. The rampant use of antibiotics which then leach into the environment is driving microbial communities to develop resistant to these drugs at an alarming rate.

A second area of concern is the ingestion of these antibiotics by humans, in particular young children. Recent scientific studies have shown that the modulation and destruction of gut microbiota by antibiotic is directly correlated with the development of human disease.

This indiscriminate use of drugs in the food industry is something that needs to be addressed, not just from a food safety concern, but also from a health concern.

Bridget Al-Saden said...

FYI If you read the warrant article, you'll see that the explanation highlights HB 815 in particular...

Richard Auffrey said...

Thanks Hector for your comments, and I strongly agree with you on the additional matters you raised. They are certainly major areas of concern.

Hello Bridget:
But, the passed resolution deal only with veal, not other confined animals. Plus, the passed resolution did not call for support of HB 815. Reference to that bill as more informational, and not proactive.