Consumers could look to see British veal and goat meat back on their dinner plates - following recommendations from the British Veterinary Society which hope to tackle the issue of surplus male production animals.

Four leading veterinary bodies have suggested that the meats be promoted to create a productive use for male calves and kids coming out of milk production systems, so as to reduce the killing of unwanted male animals on farms. Current estimates suggest that around 95,000 calves, 30 million chicks and 3,000 Billy kids are affected per year.

In a joint policy position, launched by the British Veterinary Association, British Cattle Veterinary Association, Goat Veterinary Society and the British Veterinary Poultry Association - they call for further research into solutions to reduce numbers of additional male offspring and to make sure that on-farm methods of killing surplus animals are humane.

Commenting on the new position, BCVA President, Professor David Barrett said: “The number of unwanted male dairy calves has fallen substantially in recent years, due in part to more efficient milk production meaning we now need fewer dairy cows to produce the same volume of milk, as well as the use of breeding technologies that mean we can select for female calves. Nevertheless, surplus males are still produced. Provided these calves’ welfare is protected they should become part of the meat production supply chain either as high-quality UK farm assured veal or beef.”

“As we strive for improved sustainability and increase efficient use of resource in food production, we need to use every product from dairying, including calves that can be reared for meat,” he continued. “Our entire industry needs to work together to create a robust supply chains for high quality, farm assured British dairy beef and veal and we need to help consumers understand they should embrace these products. They are very different from intensively reared veal of the type produced in systems previously banned in the UK,” he explained.

BVPA Junior Vice President, Richard Jackson said: “We are committed to ensuring that animal welfare is at the heart of all that we do. We continue to work with poultry keepers, commercial and research organisations and government to ensure high standards of flock health and welfare are maintained and developed, including on the issue of surplus male production animals.”

The dairy and egg industries have been advised to adopt a ‘3Rs’ (reduce, replace, refine) approach to the rearing and slaughter of animals which are surplus to the requirements of the specific industries. Reduction recommendations include selecting for sex and increasing the length of time that an animal can produce milk through selective breeding.

GVS President, Nick Perkins added: “Commercial dairy goat producers have made considerable strides in recent years to address the problem of surplus male production which can be particularly acute in the industry as most dairy goats are naturally prolific breeders.

“The GVS applauds the progress already made but also commends the sector to pursue the principles of reduce, replace and refine further, through improved breeding techniques with genetic selection, and developing new markets for high health and welfare goat meat (a naturally lean red meat), while always ensuring any necessary humane destruction is done diligently and correctly to prevent avoidable suffering,” he concluded.