One of my favorite Italian dishes was scaloppine al limone, a fried cut of veal with lemon juice. Second favorite would be any other scaloppine, but it’s been a couple of years since I tasted any. See, the trouble is, they’re made with veal, and the way veal itself is made takes all the fun out of eating any.
If you think too much about the ordeal all of your meat dishes go through on their way to your table, it does nothing to help your enjoyment of even fried chicken or a pork chop. But with most meats, the animal at least gets some kind of life before the chop-chop. The calf gets nothing. At birth he goes into a wooden crate too small to turn around in. He never tastes his mother’s milk. That’s pumped away to sell, while the baby is given a formula that is liberally mixed with streptomycin, penicillin and four or five other antibiotics, for the purpose of making him grow faster. Their secondary effect is that they also give him constant diarrhea, which no one cleans away, so the calf lies in it for most of its life.
Oh, and they have one other effect. They contribute to that exercise in controlled breeding that the farmers of the world have been carrying on for some generations now, in which their antibiotics kill off all the weaker bacteria, leaving the stronger — and better able to resist all known antibiotics — in each generation to become the dominant varieties. This, in turn, has its own effects, one of which is that my personal resident bacteria are now immune to all known antibiotics except to those few that are almost as toxic to large mammals — like me, for instance — as to the bacteria they are meant to control.
This, of course, means that, if and when I pick up any future serious infection, my doctors will have to guess whether the antibacterial properties of one of them outweighs its toxicity. Or whether, on the other hand, the effect of injecting me with it would resemble the effects of infecting strychnine.
But enough about me.
So tell me: do you still really enjoy veal? Or, to look at the problem from a different angle, should we go on letting the veal manufacturers grow the little calves in total misery when they could at least give them clean crates?