About 100,000 dairy calves were killed last year just because they were the ’wrong sex’, new figures have revealed.
The statistics from The Calf Forum highlight that an estimated one in five bull dairy calves born in the Britain last year was killed on farm and a further 11,000 were shipped abroad because they cannot produce milk.
To tackle the numbers of calves killed on farm and the growing live transport trade the RSPCA is working with supermarkets, the farming industry and animal welfare groups to create a market to keep male dairy calves here - such as rearing them for British veal.
David Bowles, director of communications at the RSPCA, said "animal lovers are rightly angry when they see lorry loads of young calves being shipped abroad."
"However, what many people do not realise is that nine times more calves are killed on farm just days after being born. They are the lost animals of the dairy industry."
"Farmers don’t want these animals to be killed and neither do the RSPCA. We also don’t want to see them shipped abroad to potentially face long-journeys across Europe where they can be reared on farms without a properly nutritious diet or bedding to lie down on.
"We would much rather these calves reared for veal in the UK where legally they have to be given a proper diet and bedding."
David Tory a dairy and veal farmer who is a member of the RSPCA’s Freedom Food scheme, has been educating shoppers that British veal calves are free to run around with pen mates and have a longer life than chicken, pigs, turkeys and lamb.
He said: "There is a lot of ignorance out there about British veal but once I’ve explain the facts, that there is a high welfare choice for veal, a vast majority of people are onside.
"Our veal calves have a very high quality of life - a good vaccination programme, high feed programme, deep bedding, low stocking density."
Latest figures from The Calf Forum, which was set up by the RSPCA and CiWF, revealed that over the past five years, the work of the Forum has contributed to an increase in the numbers of dairy bull calves being reared in Britain and a drop in the percentage of those being killed on farm or shipped abroad.
However last year the percentage of calves killed on farm and being shipped abroad started to creep up again.
Dr Julia Wrathall, head of the RSPCA’s farm animal science department, said: "Part of the solution to this problem is for more people to choose to buy British veal, ideally Freedom Food veal which is from farms, hauliers and abattoirs inspected to RSPCA welfare standards.
"When properly run and managed, veal calf rearing systems in the UK can provide animals with a good quality of life. Due to the diet and lifestyle of the calves the meat produced under this system is darker pink rather than very pale in colour and is known as ros’ veal."