Why the Heck Do I Care so Much About Oatmeal?

Photo Credit: Andrew Buckley for the Star Telegram
Photo Credit: Andrew Buckley for the Star Telegram

Last week, the Fort Worth Stock Show held its Sale of Champions. A 13-year-old exhibitor, Kendyll Williams, made the sale with her steer, Oatmeal. Williams not only saw her hard work pay off by making the sale, but Oatmeal was also born blind. After Williams’’ story surfaced in an article in the Fort Worth Star Telegram, the article immediately received comments from activists. These activists were outraged that the family allowed the steer to be sold to slaughter in the first place. Not too long after Oatmeal was sold, a Go Fund Me page was started so that a sanctuary, the Rowdy Girl Sanctuary, could attempt to rescue Oatmeal from slaughter. The Go Fund Me page raised over $12,000. The owner of the Rowdy Girl Sanctuary, Renee King-Sonnen stated that through the Go Fund Me page, they are trying to make Oatmeal’s life matter.

Ok, I get it. He’s blind. Yeah, that does make Oatmeal a little more special, but Oatmeal was raised to be a show steer. That means that a 4-H or FFA member feeds, waters, grooms, washes, trains, etc. the animal for show with the intent that the steer will be slaughtered afterwards. He was raised to enter the food supply. Therefore, his life still matters.

I’m a 4-H alum and raised over 9 steers and countless sheep and goats for show. You know what happened if my livestock didn’t make sale? They ended up on our dinner plate. I was raised knowing what these animals are being raised for and why that was important. I’m not saying that it wasn’t hard. Trust me, I bawled my eyes out when I sold my first couple of steers, lambs, and goats. It was especially hard when they did not make sale and entered my personal food supply. As I grew older, I gained a better understanding of the purpose of livestock. Programs like 4-H and FFA instill values and a strong work ethic into young people and give them the foundational education of what goes into supplying the world with food. Raising livestock for stock shows is a large task to begin with, but compounding that with an animal that is also blind makes it monumental. A large part of raising show stock is gaining the animal’s trust. Kendyll Williams should be praised for her dedication and hard work rather than be chastised for following through with her steer’s life purpose.

Since the story went viral, Kane Beef, a beef processor, in Corpus Christi, TX, stated that they would not being processing Oatmeal. Oatmeal was then donated to Texas A&M University’s College of Veterinary Medicine & Biomedical Sciences, where students could study Oatmeal’s corneas. It is unknown how long the university will utilize Oatmeal. Now, there’s still the $12,000 raised through the Go Fund Me page. Activists are arguing over where these funds should go and whether the Rowdy Girl Sanctuary should be required to return the donations.

The family is still receiving negative comments and this story is just an example of the importance of ag-vocating. As one of my favorite professors, Dr. Chris Reinhardt has stated, “Never take advice from someone who is yelling.” Those of us involved in the agriculture industries must work to educate others without stooping to the level of name-calling.

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