Is Costco’s Veal Zeal the Real Deal?
Having grown up on a farm, I have a problem with eating animals young. Everyone pushes beads around on their moral abacus to justify this or that; in my case, I prefer to think whatever I’m eating had a life first.
Hidden camera video recorded at a veal supplier to the Issaquah-based Wholesale Corporation, exposing baby calves covered in feces and chained by their necks in narrow stalls, where they cannot even turn around or walk, will be released at a news conference Tuesday morning by Mercy For Animals.
You can watch the video below; it’s narrated by a ticked-off Bob Barker and features dramatic footage of calves chained in narrow wooden pens (not all of it shot at the Buckeye Veal farm identified, according to Buckeye’s statement–which goes on to add that Buckeye is in the process of converting those pens to “group housing”).
The video goes on to explain that the dairy industry supplies the male calves, since dairy cows are kept pregnant to keep the milk flowing. Male calves don’t produce milk–they just ingest it, the parasites!–so they are separated from the mother and raised for veal.
It seems likely that Mercy for Animals timed their release of the video, shot in April, in time for Costco’s Q4 announcement:
Net sales for the fiscal 2010 fourth quarter, the 16 weeks ended August 29, 2010, were $23.6 billion, an increase of eight percent from $21.9 billion in the 16-week fourth quarter of fiscal 2009 ended August 30, 2009.
I was a little surprised that Costco sold veal to begin with (the Seattle Times notes Costco doesn’t sell veal in the Pacific Northwest). Even if it’s industry practice to drag and throw calves around, Jeff Lyons, Costco’s senior vice president of fresh foods, told the Times:
We’re telling them flat-out that it’s not acceptable to us, and we will not accept any veal from those farms, period. They’re going to have to go by our guidelines and policy, regardless of whether that’s considered normal practice. It’s not for us, and that might sound arrogant, but we just don’t think that’s the way to treat an animal.
Costco claims to have not been shown any chained-down calves in its inspections, and has issued stricter, more comprehensive guidelines to its supplier, Atlantic Veal and Lamb of New York, regarding animal care. CEO Jim Sinegal apologized for the lapse: “We hold ourselves to a high standard, and in this case, we plainly did not perform to that standard.”
You have to admire the way Costco has responded to the story, with a clear apology, but I tend to echo a Times‘ commenter: “Of course, NO veal would be best of all.”