Last week, I wrote a blog about Oatmeal, a blind steer shown by 13-year old Kendyll Williams. The steer was sold for $8,000 during the Sale of Champions at the 2016 Fort Worth Stock Show (FWSS). A media story about Williams and her market steer project went viral, spurring animal rights activists to rally and attempt to save the steer and find a new home for him at Rowdy Girl Sanctuary, owned by former rancher Renee King-Sonnen located in Angleton, Texas.
Since that original blog post, a lot has been happening with the drama surrounding Oatmeal. Here is an updated timeline:
1. Oatmeal was being held at a feedlot until he was cleared to be processed at Kane Beef located in Corpus Christi, Texas.
2. Vegan activists raise more than $12,000 to support Rowdy Girl Sanctuary’s attempt to free Oatmeal from the feedlot before he was slaughtered.
3. Williams and her family continue to get attacked online for their decision to show and sell market steers for beef.
4. Rowdy Girl Sanctuary posts my original blog about Oatmeal on its Facebook media page. In my post, I write, "Perhaps they (the vegan activists) would much rather see that cattle cease to exist altogether and meat is off the dinner table completely."
My assumptions prove to be true when one woman writes, “Yes, exactly, now you're finally understanding. If cattle go extinct, I'm totally cool with it. I know that it wouldn't exactly happen that way, but I'd be fine with it if it meant no more animals had to suffer or die for people's momentary satisfaction.” Other chime in with agreement. Some speculate that Williams is being corrupted by greed and manipulated to show steers again next year.
5. On Feb. 11, Kane Beef writes on social media, “Kane Beef will not be processing Oatmeal the steer.” No further explanation is offered, leaving many to speculate about Oatmeal’s whereabouts.
6. On Feb. 12, a Texas A&M University news release explains that Oatmeal was donated to Texas A&M, where his cataracts will be studied by the College of Veterinary Medicine & Biomedical Sciences and the College of Agriculture and Life Sciences. With the donation by FWSS, Kane Beef’s obligation to process the steer has been eliminated.
There is no word on how long Oatmeal will be used in the classroom; however, I would hope Texas A&M would use him this semester for veterinary studies and the livestock judging team before ultimately being harvested to be studied and used by the meats judging team and meats classes and sold in the university’s meat lab — as that is the true intent and purpose of a market steer.
"This arrangement furthers the Stock Show's mission of educating tomorrow's leaders in the livestock and food industry," said Charlie Geren, FWSS vice president, in the news release. "We're excited about what can be learned about the health and well-being of cattle and perhaps provide the beef industry with valuable information related to cattle care and handling for the future."
7. Activists are now fighting amongst themselves about where their $12,000 should go and if Rowdy Girl Sanctuary should be required to give the money back to those who donated. Many of them are lobbying for Oatmeal to be released from Texas A&M and gifted to the sanctuary.
I have mixed thoughts on this entire situation.
In one way, I’m happy that Oatmeal will be used for research and that agricultural students will benefit from him being on campus. In another way, I’m disappointed that FWSS and Kane Beef somewhat caved to the pressures of the media and animal rights activists. By caving, it sends the message that perhaps the beef industry does assume some “guilt” about harvesting steers for meat, and it gives every kid who shows a market animal a bad reputation as someone who chooses to slaughter their animals for beef instead of donating them to sanctuaries and/or keeping them on their own farms until they die of natural causes.
This story has gained way too much attention for something as small in the grand scheme of things as one show steer and a result has drummed up too much negative press for the beef industry. It’s gone way over the top but is an indication of how some people in our society view animals — as beings that shouldn’t be owned, managed, reproduced, studied, eaten, etc.
The ultimate goal of these folks is to eliminate the entire livestock sector, and while they probably think that is a compassionate point of view, it makes me sick to think that these folks want to see the end of cattle altogether instead of enjoying them while they are here and benefiting from them nutritionally, medically and in our everyday tasks, after we respectfully harvest them. I imagine I’ll never change their minds on that point, but it’s some good food for thought for those of us in the beef cattle business.
How do you think the situation with Oatmeal should have been handled? Share your thoughts in the comments section below.
The opinions of Amanda Radke are not necessarily those of beefmagazine.com or Penton Agriculture.
You might also like: