One in a series of articles on Tarrant County’s top newsmakers in 2016.
What started as a heartwarming story about a girl raising a blind steer to be shown at the Fort Worth Stock Show mushroomed into a pro-vegan, animal rights social media campaign that would keep the steer off the dinner table.
The steer, named Oatmeal, now lives at a Central Texas ranch, where his owners care and provide for him.
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Before being led to greener pastures, Oatmeal — one of the Star-Telegram’s top newsmakers in 2016 — spent a month at the Texas A&M College of Veterinary Medicine and Biomedical Sciences in College Station, where he was thoroughly examined and found to have congenital defects in both eyes and limited vision.
Matt Brockman, spokesman for the Stock Show, said Oatmeal’s caretakers have asked to remain anonymous and that he understands that the steer “is in an excellent, long-term environment enjoying the best of care and circumstances.”
Oatmeal was raised by Kendyll Williams from near Huntsville in Walker County after she convinced her father to let her have him, despite his poor vision. Kendyll became attached to the steer as she nurtured him from 5 months old until he was sold at the Stock Show a few months later.
“I’d go to his stall every day and talk to him,” Kendyll told the Star-Telegram in February. “You can’t be rough with him. He doesn’t respond well to roughness. One day, it just clicked. I started gaining his trust.”
After he was sold in the Stock Show’s annual Sale of Champions, Kendyll gave Oatmeal a hug and a kiss and said goodbye, knowing that he was on his way to a feed lot — with hundreds of other steers — in South Texas and would soon take his place in the food chain.
I’d go to his stall every day and talk to him.You can’t be rough with him. He doesn’t respond well to roughness. One day, it just clicked. I started gaining his trust.
Kendyll Williams, teen who raised Oatmeal
While ranchers and others in the food industry contended that Oatmeal was following the natural path for livestock, animal rights advocates deemed his plight a travesty, arguing that the steer was should be spared from death row.
A social media campaign called “Save Oatmeal” pushed for an animal sanctuary in Angleton to take ownership of Oatmeal. Money was raised and petitions were signed to relocate him there.
But the pro-Oatmeal campaign also resulted in ugly, hateful comments being hurled toward Kendyll, 13 at the time, her father, Lyle Williams, previously told the Star-Telegram.
“We decided not to respond because nothing good would come from it. I’m just dumbfounded by it all,” he said.
The Stock Show eventually stepped in to spare Oatmeal from the food chain, taking him to A&M in a deal brokered by state Rep. Charlie Geren, who is also vice president of the Stock Show.
What did surprise me was that they’d go after a young teenager who was simply raising and showing a steer and they would do it in such an offensive manner using social media.
Matt Brockman, Stock Show spokesman
Brockman said last week he was not surprised that the pro-vegan activists came after the Stock Show, because they often “choose traditional institutions as their target.”
“What did surprise me was that they’d go after a young teenager who was simply raising and showing a steer and they would do it in such an offensive manner using social media,” Brockman said.
Kendyl and her father did not respond to recent phone calls and emails from the Star-Telegram, so it’s unclear whether the teen plans to show another steer at the Fort Worth Stock Show this year.
But Brockman said the lessons taught — and learned — by the Oatmeal ordeal are invaluable, especially for youth who are raising and showing livestock.
“These young men and women spend a tremendous amount of time in the classroom, at workshops, stock shows and 4-H and FFA meetings learning about the livestock industry and producing a safe and wholesome food supply,” Brockman said. “Many will become the men and women that will help feed the world.”
This report includes material from the Star-Telegram archives.