Eating Veal is Evil and I Ate Veal

Last year a New Yorker article came out that turned me vegetarian for a week. I had survived a college life filled with vegetarians–basically everyone I was friends with was a vegetarian–without my carnivorous foundations cracking. And then this article came along–a very shrewd piece about PETA–that brought the reader to chicken farms where rows upon rows of beakless chickens were anesthetized and staring into space, the smell of ammonia overwhelming the author (this is how we fatten our chickens: we keep them sedentary with drugs). This freaked me out. But not as much as veal.

Veal, it seems, suffers the cruellest form of regulated animal treatment. Baby cows are kept in individual pens without any room for movement. This is to fatten them up (similar to the chickens): the less they move, the fattier they get, and more flavorful. So the baby cow spends its entire life in a crate until its old enough to die, never moving.

When I finished my week of vegetarianism I vowed that I would become a more conscientous meat eater. The week without meat led me to believe that we are meant to eat meat: our canine teeth are exhibit A. The fact that meat is delicious is exhibit B. Evolution dictates that every trait is purposeful and deliciousness is no exception. We eat meat to maintain our place on the food chain. Otherwise, Tim Burton would direct Planet of the Cows and we would all have udders. Typing would be impossible.

Veal remained the exception. I said: “Everything but veal. It’s too cruel.”

Then last night happened. Was I drugged? Drunk? Under a hypnotic spell?

No. We were at Aria (already reviewed last times the parents visited). At that last visit, mom had the veal and raved the whole way home. We made our reservation last night because of the veal–it had such a powerful effect.

And, exploring the menu, my eyes kept shifting to the veal. It sounded delicious with porcini mushrooms and crispy leeks over mashed potatoes. How cruel is a pen anyway? Movement is so overrated. And the veal was already dead, wasn’t it? Ordering the veal would only bring the already dead baby cow from the kitchen to my plate…. they weren’t going to go kill a fresh one for me. If I didn’t order it, it would go to waste.

Ok, this is the same argument people make about voting: “I’m only one vote, I don’t matter, who cares if I go?” Sometimes I believe that. I lost my write-in ballot for Bush v. Gore and felt bad but not so bad until the TVs came on that night and I saw that it all basically came down to Palm Beach County: my county, my vote.

Now Bush is president and I ate this for dinner:

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Can you forgive me?

9 comments

  1. On one of our first dates, my husband ate veal. When we met, I’d been a vegetarian for 10 years (and still am). I married him anyway.

  2. Depends on if you really enjoyed it or not. Better if you did–if you didn’t, it would seem like a waste.

    If you really feel bad about it, I suggest you make a really tasty vegan dish and write about it on the blog as your penance. Something with at least one of those ingredients omnivores don’t usually eat. Like seitan (lots of pun fodder there) or nutritional yeast or something.

    If it makes you feel any better, I am a vegetarian who sometimes feels guilty for not being vegan. I think if I was vegan I’d end up feeling guilty for not being macrobiotic, or not going raw, or not being a fruitarian. I think the main thing is to give some serious thought to how you eat. As long as you do that you’re OK in my book.

  3. okay, I’m with Susan here (except for the vegan thing). If a person is going to eat meat, the treatment of the animal in question becomes a matter of degree anyway. The idea that veal is evil has penetrated even the dark heart of my otherwise anti-vegetarian husband. (And yes, he actually dislikes vegetarians–on principle–not vegetables.) Even he won’t eat veal, yet veal is still on the menu. There must be a lot of closet, guilty veal-eaters out there for veal to remain on menus.

    To my lights, that’s the biggest waste of all. Eat the veal with gusto, I say, and also, please vote.

  4. what is it about veal, that makes people crave it for dinner? A woman in my office is looking forward to a birthday dinner of veal. Is it the taste? I’ve never had it, and have been a veggie for 25 years. Don’t people realize how veal is made? I didn’t want to say anything—fear of being confrontational…but deep inside I couldn’t understand how someone could feast on a dead animal forced into veal

  5. The practices of producing veal and that of meat from animals that come off of factory farms in general is an incredibly cruel and immoral practice. I am a vegetarian, but this is beside the fact. my issue is more with the practices that we are blind to when that plate comes out of a restaurant kitchen with the garnish and sauce on top. It is the same philosophy of not buying a brand of t-shirt because it comes from a sweat shop. I am not so much arguing that one should stop buying t-shirts but more that one should at least, be interested in where a product they are buying or consuming is coming from and whether it contributes to a being’s unneccessary suffering. If one is confronted with facts or info of immoral/cruel practices they should do their part to let the producer know whether or not they approve because at the end of the day the business is nothing without its customers. And voluntary ignorance is no excuse. If you get a chance check out a film called “Earthlings” produced by Woody Harrelson and Narrated by Jouquin Phoenix.

  6. I have never ordered or ever will order veal. I’ve tried being a vegetarian (Succeeded for about a year, just got tired of the difficulty of finding options, I eat out a lot and got tired of eating just “sides”) as did my wife but she seems to have no problem ordering veal often. I tried it once or twice at most and I must say I don’t understand why people like it. It doesn’t taste like anything special, then I had the guilt on top of that..

  7. So veal is evil is it? Is it more evil than the dairy industry from which the calves come from; I think not! If we did not rear veal, many thousands of baby calf, the males, would be distroyed straight after birth, yes that is correct, killed for no other reason -& I won’t give you any feminist jokes about it not being a bad thing- than being a male calf. This outdated attitude must be changed, we humans need meat & all other food groups, to survive. Maybe we don’t require the huge -i do love a 16oz steak- amount of meat we consume & certianly not every day but we do live in decadent times and as such have access to all and any of the food groups we desire. To be a vegitarian/vegan…whatever else, is no better than saying I don’t even want to see the sunlight, or to be a veal calf, it is too restrictive, meat like all other foods, is fundamental to our survival. that’s my rant, now back to the EVIL veal!! Not all veal is reared by the restriction method, although, unfortunatly, the best taste does come from holding male – should have been killed at birth- calves in pens & keeping them out of the light. British veal farmers are beginning to treat these animals like the revered Coby Beef of Japan, yes they are still kept in dark sheds -so are the majority of chickens- but instead of keeping them in crates they are massaged daily to keep the muscle soft. if the only problem you have with this meat is the alleged cruelty, research were it came from first. I have no guilt, I need to eat & until a cow, or any other animal, can go to work and do my job it will remain to be a source of food, clothing and countless other amazing things.

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