May 01, 2003

 

 New Jersey veal calf legislation nears passage

Posted April 15, 2003

New Jersey lawmakers are considering a bill mandating certain management practices for raising veal calves.

To promote humane treatment of the animals, the legislation requires that veal calves be provided with room to turn around, lie down, and groom, and that they be fed a diet sufficient in iron and fiber.

Farm Sanctuary, an animal rights group, has been pressing for the law since February 2002 when Assemblywoman Loretta Weinberg introduced the bill in the state legislature.

Although New Jersey is not a veal-producing state, it does have beef and dairy herd replacement calf farms. Calves from these operations are milk fed for approximately five months, until they weigh an estimated 500 pounds, before being shipped to veal-producing states.

Should the bill become law, it would, nevertheless, affect these operations because the Department of Agriculture defines a veal calf as a bovine of less than 750 pounds.

Despite opposition from a coalition of dairy farmers, animal nutrition specialists, and dairy extension specialists at Rutgers University, the state Senate passed the bill by a 22-4 vote in late January. The New Jersey state veterinarian had testified against the bill, as well.

Opponents testified that feeding veal calves fiber at 14 days old, as the bill requires, would harm the animals as they do not yet have the enzymes to digest fiber at such a young age. Moreover, the existing design of the stalls is meant to prevent the calves from sleeping with their heads over manure pits at the back of the stalls.

At press time in late March, the state Assembly had yet to vote on the bill.