This picture was shared by William McNamara on his Facebook page.

Alleged picture of veal farm

It was captioned:

This is not a graphic pic, nor a gorey one,... though one to make you think where your food comes from. Can you guess what this is? This is in Oregon, and each crate has a calf in it, that was taken from their mourning, crying mother, one hour after they were born. Their mother had enough time, to clean up the birth, lick and intially bond with them, before they were taken away to live in these boxes, waiting to die in about six weeks. Here they will stay unable to move to make their "meat" tender until they become veal steaks. At the very least, give up veal. It's a really great start. Do something, anything.

Are these crates stored outdoors intended for calfs? Are they placed into these crates an hour (or shortly) after they're born? Is the lifespan of a veal-calf about six weeks?

  • 7
    If verbatim quoting a bunch of questionable and emotional claims to then just ask three fairly commonplace and ultimately irrelevant questions isn't against the site rules, I think it should be.
    – sgf
    Commented Dec 9, 2020 at 11:24
  • 3
    @sgf What makes the questions irrelevant? Why should a questioned claim being "emotional" blacklist it? If we ruled out all "questionable" claims, would we actually be left with a useful site, where every interaction involved answering "yes, that's true" to unquestionable claims? Commented Dec 9, 2020 at 15:05
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    How many questions are there in this post?
    – Clockwork
    Commented Dec 9, 2020 at 17:07
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    @Clockwork 3, I think.
    – EarlGrey
    Commented Dec 11, 2020 at 10:25
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    @DanielWagner The issue isn't that the questioned claims are emotional. The question is that a lot of emotional content is quoted ("mourning, crying mother", "unable to move to make their meat tender"), and then the question asked is "Is the lifespan of a veal-calf about six weeks?". People are fighting about whether these crates are for maltreating calfs, which the text is about, but not about the average lifespan of a veal-calf - as OP should have expected. If you give people both cold facts and emotional human interest fluff, they're gonna talk about the fluff, not the facts.
    – sgf
    Commented Jan 19, 2021 at 17:34

4 Answers 4


Snopes rates that particular picture as a fairly misleading "veal hutch" which isn't actually used like that.

enter image description here

What’s pictured here are not crates in which calves are imprisoned within an hour of their birth, condemned to spend their entire lifespans stuffed into little boxes that don’t even provide them enough room to turn around in order to keep their meat “tender” before they’re marched off to slaughter after only six weeks. (Veal calves are typically raised for 16 weeks, not six.) This photograph actually shows calf hutches that are used to house calves being raised for dairy (not veal) purposes, and those hutches provide plenty of room for calves to turn around and as well as attached runs so that the calves can spend time outdoors.

More photos follow on Snopes, among which one that has seemingly the exact same 3-window pattern to the hutch, but seen from the inside. I guess this one is intended to prove there's "plenty of room for calves to turn" in those hutches:

enter image description here

There are more photos with the outside wire pens attached and if you look closely at claim photo you can see the wire pens in that one as well, except that the hutches are shot from the back, so the pens are on the far side.

Also a bit more image searching finds the same ribbed-pattern hutches (with the three inner ribbs a bit closer to each other than to the out two) but shot from opposite angle; and this one has the calves in the image for relative-scale perspective; the calves in this photo seem more mature:

enter image description here

As far as the purpose of such a practice goes, the USDA itself recommends in a 2007 document (p. 63) that:

Housing for unweaned calves should provide a dry area with shelter that does not allow contact with other calves or older animals, especially. Hutches or individual animal pens usually are recommended for unweaned calves.

Sure there are some recommendations or regulations for minimum sizes etc., as OP's own answer details.

And in a (much later) section that is detailed to be for "biosecurity" (disease prevention) reasons:

Newborn calf risks and contact with other cattle

Separating newborn calves from their dams soon after they are born helps prevent disease transmission that can occur through nursing or contact with adult cow feces in maternity areas. Milk from dams infected with Mycoplasma, Salmonella, E. coli, Mycobacterium avium subspecies paratuberculosis, or BVD can transmit these diseases to calves (Wells, 2000; Nielsen et al., 2008). Feeding preweaned calves pasteurized milk, milk replacer, or milk from known disease-free cows is recommended.

The percentage of operations that separated newborn calves from their dams immediately after they were born doubled from 1991 to 2007 (28.0 to 55.9 percent of operations, respectively). In 2007, 22.2 percent of operations allowed calves to nurse from their dams but removed them from their dams less than 12 hours following birth. In 2007, about two-thirds of calves (65.6 percent) were on operations that removed calves from their dams immediately following birth. Less than 1 of 10 operations (7.3 percent)—representing 2.6 percent of calves—allowed calves to stay with their dams for more than 24 hours.

Keeping preweaned calves separate from older animals is an effective way to reduce their exposure to disease. Preweaned calves are more susceptible to disease than older, healthy animals because their immune system is not yet fully developed (BAMN, 2001b). Physical contact between preweaned calves and cattle from older age groups (including nose-to-nose, sniffing, touching, licking, or contact across fence lines) increases the risk of exposing the calves to diseases such as salmonellosis, Johne’s disease, and upper respiratory diseases. The percentage of operations in which preweaned heifers were not exposed to weaned calves, bred heifers, or adult cattle increased from 1996 to 2007.

enter image description here

Whether this common US practice has some other deleterious side-effects because individual housing "lacks physical and social stimulation, limiting calves' ability to perform natural behaviors" has been investigated in some papers, but we're getting a bit far afield from the claim here.

Interestingly, in the UK, since 2018 Tesco has banned the use of single-calf hutches for its suppliers, citing some papers like the above, i.e. they require that calves be reared at least in pairs from day one.

There are actually precious few illustrations of what a "veal crate" looks like (or looked like, before the various bans). I found a fairly credible one on the website of an organization that fought for their ban in the EU. (The ban was adopted in 1995, but had 12-year grace period, becoming fully effective in 2007.)

enter image description here

Also on the EU side, you could look at video of a contemporary (2017) "veal shed" in the Netherlands. Similar video of a US veal farm (2019). Individual indoor pens for young calfs can be seen briefly.

enter image description here

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    @EvanCarroll if you don’t accept secondary sources, why did you ask here? This site is a secondary source.
    – Tim
    Commented Dec 7, 2020 at 8:58
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    @Tim "if you don’t accept secondary sources, why did you ask here? This site is a secondary source" If an answer uses only secondary sources, that makes this page a tertiary source. Commented Dec 7, 2020 at 10:55
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    @EvanCarroll: Pretty much everything in your posted claim about these hutches is wrong, other than stating that calves live in them (but with significantly different living conditions than is being claimed). This is why Snopes lists it as misleading. It's not an outright lie, but the claim tries to push a narrative that just isn't true. It's not for veal. It doesn't restrict movement to tenderize meat, nor are the calves unable to move. It's not a six week birth-to-death house. The picture's angle hides the outside pens and the claim makes no effort to provide a full (figurative) picture.
    – Flater
    Commented Dec 7, 2020 at 12:38
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    @EvanCarroll they didn’t. They said “because skeptics said so” and then gave all the evidence.
    – Tim
    Commented Dec 7, 2020 at 15:54
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    @EvanCarroll: "Which to the point of the claim -- that this is a practice for veal farming is true" You're moving the goal post. The question you posted is whether the picture depicts conditions at a veal farm. The answer to that is no, it's a dairy farm, and living conditions there are significantly different from the explanation of your picture. Whether or not veal farms exist somewhere in the world is irrelevant to your question about this specific picture.
    – Flater
    Commented Dec 8, 2020 at 10:14

The internet makes it fairly easy to find a site that sells calf hutches. For example, this site sells hutches, buddy hutches (for pairs of calfs) and group hutches. You can check out the dimensions: https://calfhutch.com/. Here's a competitor: https://loyal-roth.com/products/calf-hutches/.

Both sites claim that their hutches promote comfort for the calf (or calves).

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    I'm not sure what this answers. The skepticism here, afaik is that Snopes wrongly claims that these hutches are not fit for veal based on nothing other than an article written by the Dairy Association. For that reason, Snopes concludes that statements are false. However, the Canadian government acknowledges single-calf manufactured hutches for veal. And the Ontario Veal Farmers shows similar hutches for veal. So what we really need is a picture of a hutch that is marketed for veal use. Commented Dec 8, 2020 at 2:57
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    @EvanCarroll I imagine it would be answering your comment which requests "Can you show me one manufacturer that sells a crate of different dimensions for veal and dairy?".
    – MT0
    Commented Dec 8, 2020 at 13:33
  • @MT0 sure and these items for sale do not show that. It shows only a dairy hutch for sale, right? These are not marketed as a veal crate? The problem here is people are arguing that that there are two distinct types: dairy hutch, and veal crate. And, moreover that the one in the OP is specific to a dairy hutch. In order to prove this claim false we need an example of a manufacturer which differentiates. Otherwise, these could be either and the weight of evidence doesn't point a direction. Commented Dec 8, 2020 at 16:15

It seems there have been an exchange of the order of magnitudes of times, to get attention via social sharing.


  1. Yes, these outdoors crates are intended for calfs;
  2. This paper mentions that (in France) two specific calves were brought into the crates when 2 weeks old; https://www.researchgate.net/publication/248334847_The_Effects_of_Rearing_in_Individual_Crates_on_Subsequent_Social-Behavior_of_Veal_Calves
  3. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Veal if you follow the references given in wikipedia, you may find that the average lifespan of a veal is 20 to 35 weeks (varying according to countries), so about 6 to 9 months.

Mostly True

In summary,

  • calves are put into crates early on (within three days) in their lifespan (still)
  • those crates can be outside (still)
  • they could have been bought, and made from plastic or fiberglass (still)
  • there was a practice to further restrict movement and stop the calves from accessing the outdoors (regulation now limits this)

What isn't true is the six-week period to slaughter. We will never know whether or not the calves in these crates in question were destined for dairy or veal, only that calves and heifers are both crated under similar circumstances when young, and that veal calves can be further crated until slaughter.

The device shown is sold as a "hutch", but dubbed a "crate" by animal rights activists. The United States has no federal laws against putting veal calves in hutches, but many states have laws against this.. Moreover, many countries have banned the practice like Britain in the 1990s; and, the entire EU banned the practice in 2007. The federal government of Canada defines hutch as,

Hutch: any type of outdoor enclosure that includes some type of overhead cover used to rear 1–2 calves (some hutches are designed to house 4–5 calves). Hutches may be purchased or made.

All of the bolded things match this description. These are purchased covered outdoor enclosures for one calf. The Canadian "Code of Practice" for veal states,

Well-managed hutches provide a good housing option for young calves, especially when hutches permit social contact by virtue of their design/size or the way in which the hutches are arranged.

Which doesn't just acknowledge their use, but seems to encourage it. That some veal farmers were not allowing their calves in hutches access to the outdoors seems likely too as the Canadian government just enacted a change that will go into effect in December of 2020 to make this a requirement. The American Veal Association also passed a resolution and phased out the practice of crate confinement in 2017 (couldn't find information on how they define "crate confinement". To argue that single-calf hutches like those shown where not used as tools to isolate veal-calves is to say these regulations were moot when created in the USA and elsewhere.

You can see pictures of calves for veal use in hutches that are not confined at Veal Farmers of Ontario's website. Note these are very similar outdoor enclosures they just provide metal fencing to keep the calf in rather than restraining them to the container itself via chain or rope, or providing a door. This is the "social contact" suggested above.


As to when they get separated from Vealfarm

Both male and female offspring of dairy cows are normally removed from cows within three days of giving birth.

Now, are these specific crates for veal or dairy? I imagine they could be purposed for either. The Veal Farmers of Ontario are showing pictures of dairy crates and heifers on their webpage (picture above).

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    Snopes rates that particular picture as a fairly misleading "veal hutch" which isn't actually used like that. Commented Dec 6, 2020 at 10:23
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    This seems like a weak answer. Can we get a more definitive take than "It at least seems possible"? The claim is about the USA, but most of the links are about different countries. The dairy industry deny that they are for veal. Do you have a reference for the age of veal slaughter (particularly because many bobby calves seem to be slaughtered younger than 30 days)? The suggestion that "someone should write to Canada" is confusing.
    – Oddthinking
    Commented Dec 6, 2020 at 11:17
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    @EvanCarroll: My priors slightly lean toward the US standards being lower than Canada's, but I am the one arguing against assuming. The focus on Canada doesn't answer the question. Your link is a red herring; it doesn't stop you from referencing and focussing on the appropriate laws.
    – Oddthinking
    Commented Dec 7, 2020 at 2:01
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    You still haven't responded to my concerns, especially the last paragraph not being part of the answer.
    – Oddthinking
    Commented Dec 7, 2020 at 2:02
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    @EvanCarroll: I think that that US laws restricting activists from secretly filming animal abuses is not a valid justification for prioritising links to irrelevant British, Canadian and EU laws about hutches over relevant Oregon ones in your answer.
    – Oddthinking
    Commented Dec 11, 2020 at 13:26

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