so while i was traveling, i received an email from a representative of peta. i’d imagine most people are familiar with the organization, but for those who aren’t it would be worthwhile to explore their site. i empathize with the organization’s cause, as i’d imagine more than 90% of the world would as well. human beings are sympathetic creatures – why would we wish inhumane and severe cruelty on anyone, or anything?
to be honest, i was disappointed with this letter, as you’ll see in my response that i’ll be posting below the letter i received. but what do you think? i understand the point, but at the same time, i feel i go above and beyond to not only work with local and sustainable farms that are leading a revolution in farming practices, but i go to the farms. i meet the animals. this is stuff i truly care about. here are the emails, and for confidentiality’s sake, i’ll be omitting contact info. i’m not looking to start a back and forth here, but at the same time, i won’t just sit here and roll with the punches, which is why i’m sharing this. and so, the letters:
Greetings from PETA. Congratulations on all your success. As you may know, PETA is the largest animal rights organization in the world, with more than 2 million members and supporters dedicated to the protection of animals.
We’re writing today because numerous individuals—including fans of yours—contacted us to let us know that they were shocked to see you promoting veal and even displaying a photo of a skinned baby calf—Guillermo, as you named him—on your Twitter. Please know that the veal industry is cruel and inhumane and will remain financially viable as long as influential people like you continue to refer to the meat from sick, malnourished baby cows as a delicacy. It doesn’t matter where you purchase the meat—if you support the veal industry, you are supporting cruelty.
The pale color of veal, as you no doubt noted in Guillermo’s flesh, results from an unhealthy diet and continual confinement. Calves on veal farms are forced to spend their short lives in individual crates that are no more than 30 inches wide and 72 inches long. These crates are designed to keep the calves from exercising and to inhibit normal muscle growth in order to produce tender “gourmet” veal. The calves are fed a milk substitute that is intentionally low in iron so that they will become anemic and their flesh will stay pale.
After enduring these conditions for 12 to 23 weeks, these young animals—many of whom can barely walk because of sickness or muscle atrophy—are crowded into metal trucks for transport to the slaughterhouse. On these trucks, they are trampled and suffer from temperature extremes and a lack of food, water, and veterinary care. Please take a moment to view this short video on the dairy and veal industries, narrated by Alec Baldwin:
and, my response:
First of all, I appreciate you reaching out and your genuine concerns. I would like you to know that what I am trying to do is inform people of a responsible way to purchase, distribute and butcher all animals, including veal. I also apply this principle to the produce and seafood I get. Not only do I know where all my products come from, I make sure that the way my ingredients are obtained has the least significant impact on the environment.
In the past I have rarely used veal due to the inhumane treatment of calves. However, I was contacted by a local farm that raises free range veal in a very respectable way. In fact, a couple weeks before the dinner, I took a trip to the farm to meet all the animals and the family who raises them. The care and dedication that family had to making sure their animals lived a great & healthy life really opened my eyes to the possibility of not only veal but other humanely raised livestock.
Additionally, we used every part of our veal calf. We want people to remember that when they take an animals life, they should use each and every part of it. Nothing goes to waste.
While I understand the message of PETA, I would appreciate if you took the time to do a bit more research about a person and their message before you jump the gun and attack their actions. While many people shun veal, the greater culinary community will continue to have veal be apart of their menus. All I am trying to do is get people to look at these local farms as refuge from larger, meat processing plants. I cannot stop people from eating meat, and God knows I enjoy it myself, so I might as well try to promote a moral way of serving livestock.
Thank you, and I do believe through these practices and conscious actions, I am not only a true “top chef” as you put it, but a role model for the culinary community.
again, working with the farms – and i mean local. sustainable. humane farms – is something i care deeply about. just for kicks, here’s what i mean:
*photo of outstanding in the field dinner at kinnikinnick farm via johnny auer