How do you imagine the life of a newborn calf in the dairy industry? Cared for by the mother, in the family on lush pastures? Unfortunately, none of this applies to cows and calves in livestock farming.
We at PETA have received extensive footage from a calf auction in Bavaria that documents the violent treatment of the few-week-old calves over a period of three years. In this article you will learn more about the agonizing calf auctions and why animal babies are only considered goods in this industry.
Kicks, hunger and fear: baby animals at calf auctions are nothing but goods
The material sent to us clearly shows how brutal the handling of the few-week-old calves is:
- The animal children are driven out of the transporters, sometimes pushed. Then they are locked in waiting pens together with other calves and then roughly driven to register. Registering is associated with great stress for the animals, because they are weighed individually and given another ear tag, which is painfully pricked in their ears, to identify them.
- They are then again herded into pens, where they are often so crowded that they cannot lie down in peace. The whole process is torture for the baby animals, who actually need a lot of rest and the security of their mother.
- In the waiting pens, the young animals are apparently not even able to drink or even eat. They cannot use the attached drinking bowls because as infants they still need the mother’s udder or at least need so-called suckling drinkers that imitate it.
- The constant vocalization of the animals is an expression of their fear in the completely unfamiliar environment, combined with the rough treatment by the humans and the massive stress that the undersupply triggers. The cubs keep screaming – but nobody helps them. Instead, they are herded further into the auction hall, where they are sold like commodities to the highest bidder.
- The baby animals are kicked again and again, their sensitive ears are pulled and pushed massively, sometimes with blows. Her tail is snapped painfully to force her to cooperate. The people involved are only concerned with driving hundreds of calves from A to B as quickly as possible every day – regardless of how much the four to six-week-old cow children suffer as a result.
Children abuse children – adults urinate next to calves
Even children sometimes help with driving the calves without supervision. They scream, push and hit the defenseless young animals, which often slip, panic and want to flee. These children are themselves victims of a brutal system in which adults show them how to treat animals roughly.
Photographs show employees urinating right next to the calves in the waiting pens. This is another sign of disrespect towards animals, because surely these people would not do their business in a children’s playground right next to the sandbox.
What is PETA doing in the case of the Bavarian calf auction?
The catastrophic handling of calves at the Bavarian auction was documented in the period from 2020 to 2023 and then published by us. We have filed criminal charges against those responsible and are demanding a transformation towards vegan organic farming from politicians. Targeted programs are intended to enable farmers to phase out of livestock farming.
Until then, each and every one of us is asked to oppose this form of animal cruelty and to eat vegan. The way calves are treated would by no means be tolerated in the case of puppies or kittens, but would be punished. It is therefore up to us to end the daily speciesism on our plates.
These are not the first recordings of animal cruelty at German calf auctions. As early as 2018, we published material from Herrenberg in Baden-Württemberg, which showed a similarly brutal treatment of the frightened animal children. Calves suffer every day for the production of milk and meat – wherever they are exploited by humans.
These footage from a calf auction in Herrenberg show calves being slapped on the back and head! Look for yourself!
The cruel system behind calf auctions
Where do the calves that are sold at auction come from?
Cattle are mammals. A cow only produces milk after giving birth to a calf. The milk industry uses this property and keeps the milk flow constantly high – and therefore economically viable. Most of the newly born calves are just unwanted “by-products”.
Female offspring are sometimes used to “replenish the herd”. Female calves that are expected to have a good “milk yield” are thus exploited on dairy farms, like their mothers. So-called dairy breeds, such as the Holstein Frisian, were bred specifically for the highest possible milk yields. However, the male calves of these breeds neither produce milk nor, due to breeding, put on a lot of meat. This makes them economically unprofitable and therefore unusable for fattening, in which special “mast lines” are used.
A large proportion of the calves that are auctioned off at auction are therefore male animals from dairy farms. There are also other animals from various breeding or fattening farms. Some of the calves also come from organic farms.
What happens to the calves after they are born?
Calves that are born on dairy farms are usually violently snatched from their mothers shortly after birth and usually locked up individually in so-called calf igloos. Completely isolated and far away from their mother, after their first milk they usually only get cheap milk substitutes. This often leads to severe diarrhea, which is exacerbated by the traumatic separation from the mother and can be fatal for the newborn. If the calves survive the first few weeks, they are usually picked up by dealers or transported to calf auctions.
Where do the calves go after the auction?
After the calves have been auctioned off in the auction hall like lifeless goods, they are again herded into waiting pens and later onto trucks. Depending on the destination specified by the buyer, a journey that can sometimes take hours awaits them – again without supply, because there are simply no suitable transporters for young calves that are still dependent on mother’s milk.
Many young animals that are not sold at the auctions never return to their original farm. On the one hand they are not needed there, on the other hand auctions for calves represent a high health risk, because the animal children can catch diarrhea or other diseases there. They are therefore often sold to dealers at ridiculous prices. Long transports abroad often follow, as Spain and the Netherlands in particular have specialized in the fattening of calves from the dairy industry. After fattening, many cattle are transported by truck or ship on journeys lasting days or weeks to countries outside the EU, where they are brutally treated and killed without stunning.
Help the calves: live vegan!
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