Earlier this week, the Fort Worth Star Telegram wrote a feature story on 13-year old Kendyll Williams and her blind show steer named Oatmeal. Despite being blind, Williams tenderly and patiently worked with the steer to get him broke, gain his trust, and show him in public arenas even though he could only vaguely see shapes and shadows. It’s pretty remarkable that she was able to accomplish this task in a steer with that kind of limitation, and I tip my hat to Williams for her hard work and her passion for the sport of showing cattle as well as the beef industry.
Of course, every 4-H kid knows that a market steer will eventually be sold for nutritious beef and life-enriching by-products. It’s the circle of life that farm and ranch kids know and understand from a very young age. This death isn’t meaningless; by respectfully harvesting beef animals for beef, we give meaning to the life of that beef animal.
Even understanding this circle of life, it still doesn’t make it any easier to say goodbye to a steer that you’ve worked with day-in and day-out. These kids spend hours in the barn washing and training hair, leading and setting them up, feeding them twice each day, and making sure they are cool and comfortable, so they can grow and perform well at home and in the show ring.
So after months of hard work, sweat and tears, it can be very difficult to load that steer onto the trailer when it’s time for him to go to market. I’ve been there, and it’s a sacrifice I know I must make to provide food for others. These show kids know and understand that it’s not practical to keep a 1,300-lb. animal as a pet for the next 15 years, so it’s just part of the process.
Unfortunately, Williams is receiving much criticism and angry backlash from folks who read the Star Telegram article. Some are accusing her of being heartless. Some are “shocked” that she could kill this animal despite getting so close to him. They are equating a market steer to a pet, and there’s even a campaign to save Oatmeal (who was sold to a local auction market for $8,000 at the Fort Worth Stock Show Sale of Champions).
The Facebook group is called “Oatmeal Blind Steer,” and there’s an effort to raise money for Renee King-Sonnet with Rowdy Girl Sanctuary to purchase Oatmeal and save him from the packing plant.
Here are a few online comments to give you an idea of what people are saying about Williams' decision to sell Oatmeal at the stock show:
- “Can we start a Go Fund Me page to help the family keep the steer until its natural death?”
- “Cruel, I'm sorry but either keep him or see to his safe passage beyond. Poor thing must have been beside himself leaving her and carted to death in a strange most likely inhumane slaughterhouse.”
- “Why the hell don't they keep him? This is horrible. Brought me to tears. There's no reason to do that.”
- “Nope, Oatmeal would have lived out his life with me. No way I could do that to him. The bond he had with that girl was incredible. He trusted her and she broke that trust.”
- “Really? Great accomplishment to make a baby love you and then send him to be slaughtered?”
From what I’ve read, Williams is heartbroken after reading some of the negative comments, so if we could flood the comments section of The Show Circuit's Facebook page, where this article is linked, I think it would be great to show her our support and offer her our congratulations on a job well done with her show steer Oatmeal.
As for the Rowdy Girl Sanctuary, I think their hearts are in the right place, but the idea of saving animals that are meant to produce food is ludicrous and unrealistic. While it’s easy to fall in love with one steer, I don’t know how these people expect to “save” every steer in every feedlot. Perhaps they would much rather see that cattle cease to exist altogether and meat is off the dinner table completely.
At the end of the day, I applaud Williams and her family for getting her involved in a great project like showing market steers. It teaches important life lessons that will help her into adulthood, and I hope this negative online feedback doesn’t take away her passion for what she does. Keep making us proud, Kendyll. We are rooting for you!
The opinions of Amanda Radke are not necessarily those of beefmagazine.com or Penton Agriculture.
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