vealcalve_406x250For the veal calf headed to market, it’s a distinction without a difference. If all goes according to plan, the animal will go to slaughter without incident, which means the producer will be happy. If the veal calf, however, falls down and cannot get up, the animal will be “promptly euthanized,” which means the Humane Society of the U.S. and other animal rights groups will be happy. Currently veal calves that fall down and cannot get up are given time to see if they can rise from a recumbent position and walk after they’ve been given time to rest or a place to warm up. Then, if USDA veterinarians find they are free from disease, they can be sent down the chute to the “knock box” for slaughter as human food. But the Humane Society of the U.S. (HSUS) and others have long viewed the second chance at slaughter as a “loophole” and have kept up the pressure to eliminate it. The change means any veal calves that fall down will have to be destroyed with the economic cost falling on the producer. The annual economic impact analysis shows the cost for the veal industry will range between $2,368 and $161,404 per year. HSUS says closing the “loophole” gives producers a financial incentive to treat calves better through the slaughter process. USDA’s Food Safety and Inspection Service (FSIS) would save between 70.5 and 428 hours in agency time that is now going to “downer veal” re-inspections to see if the animals might get up and therefore be fit for slaughter as human food. “FSIS is dedicated to ensuring the veal calves presented for slaughter at FSIS-inspected facilities are treated humanely,” said USDA Administrator Al Almanza. “Prohibiting the slaughter of all non-ambulatory veal calves will continue this commitment and improve compliance with the Human Methods of Slaughter Act.” FSIS found that while cattle younger than 30 months do not present a serious risk of bovine spongiform encephalopathy or BSE, veal calves are vulnerable to “other systemic and metabolic diseases and and injury because of inadequate immunoglobulin transfer, nutritional inadequacies of an all-liquid iron-deficient diet, activity restriction and stress.” It said veal calves are “acutely susceptible to enteritis, which is the inflammation of the small intestine caused by infection that may lead to diarrhea, abdominal pain, fever and dehydration.” FSIS said under the new rule, it will eliminate the time that was being taken to see if calves are non-ambulatory because they are tired or cold. Animal agriculture groups said the existing system is more humane because it gives the animals time to rest and gain warmth. Prior to 2009, FSIS used a case-by-case review to determine if a “downer” cow could be accepted for slaughter. After adult downer cows were banned, HSUS petitioned to eliminate downer veal calves, claiming the failure to require immediate euthanasia is an incentive for abusive conduct because a non-ambulatory disabled calf is worthless unless slaughtered. (To sign up for a free subscription to Food Safety News, click here.)