Oatmeal has been pardoned.
The blind steer will be transported from a South Texas feedlot to Texas A&M, where he will be given a clinical evaluation and studied by staff and students.
Scheduled for slaughter after being auctioned last Saturday at the Fort Worth Stock Show’s Sale of Champions, Oatmeal’s story struck a nerve among animal rights activists, vegans and others.
Stock Show officials and those in the cattle industry contended that the steer was simply taking his place in the food chain.
As activists took to social media in an effort to rescue the steer, Oatmeal waited at a feedlot in South Texas.
Now he is bound for College Station, where he was expected to arrive late Friday or early Saturday, said state Rep. Charlie Geren, vice president of the Stock Show, who worked the deal with A&M Chancellor John Sharp.
“You know I love the Stock Show and the Stock Show was getting some bad publicity on this thing,” Geren said. “I called up John and said ‘if we buy this steer back can we broker a deal on this thing?’ ”
Geren is up for re-election in District 99 and being opposed by Bo French in the GOP primary in March. But he said his intervention to spare Oatmeal’s life had nothing to do with politics.
“Absolutely not,” Geren said. “When I first got elected, I would come home every night during the session to not miss a performance at the Stock Show. That’s how much it means to me.”
Oatmeal will be entrusted to A&M’s College of Veterinary Medicine and Biomedical Sciences and the College of Agriculture and Life Sciences, Stock Show officials said.
“The steer is the property of Texas A&M,” said Matt Brockman, publicity manager of the Stock Show. “He’s going there for the clinical evaluation of a live animal.”
Megan Palsa, a spokeswoman for A&M’s veterinary school, said she didn’t have any information on Oatmeal or what treatment he would receive, but did acknowledge they have two ophthalmologists on staff.
Oatmeal was born in September 2014 with inoperable cataracts that were so thick he can probably only detect light and dark shapes.
Once the public learned about Oatmeal’s vision issues, Geren said he heard from many people concerned about the animal’s plight.
“Obviously, some of them were some animal rights groups, which wasn’t surprising, but I was surprised by some of the people who spoke out and voiced their concern,” Geren said. “It was genuine.”
Geren said Oatmeal will ultimately reside at A&M’s College of Animal Science and “help teach kids with judging at livestock shows.”
The story of Oatmeal
The Star-Telegram published articles this week about Oatmeal and Kendyll Williams, the 13-year-old girl who raised the steer from when he was 5 months old. She spent extra time with Oatmeal, who was named after a childhood toy, preparing him to be a show steer.
After finishing fourth in the European crossbred lightweight class at the Fort Worth Stock Show, Oatmeal advanced to the elite Sale of Champions that resulted in an $8,000 payday for Kendyll and a trip to a feedlot for Oatmeal.
“She accomplished her goal,” said Lyle Williams, Kendyll’s father.
While especially close to Oatmeal, Kendyll knew that if her 964-pound steer was to make the Sale of Champions, he would be sold — just like other top livestock.
He did well in the class competition, though the judge did notice that Oatmeal “was too restricted when he walked,” Williams said.
“We didn’t tell the judge that Oatmeal was blind,” Williams said. “That steer was bound and determined to succeed.”
While many readers praised Kendyll for taking a chance on a blind steer, others were outraged that Oatmeal was destined for processing and rallied on his behalf through social media campaigns.
An online fundraising website was set up to raise money to care for Oatmeal and through 4 p.m. Friday more than $12,800 had been pledged.
A post written by activist Laura Oatman — she calls her supporters Team Oatmeal — on crowdrise.com said that if the money cannot be used for Oatmeal it would go Renee King-Sonnen, who operates a farm animal sanctuary in Angleton. Oatman wrote that the money would go toward scholarships for FFA students who experience a change of heart and a rescue fund for future livestock.
Earlier this week, Renee King-Sonnen said, “if we can rescue Oatmeal it would be such a great story for Valentine’s.”
Hoping for closure
Besides contacting Geren and Stock Show officials, dozens of callers to the Star-Telegram argued that Oatmeal was special and should be spared.
“He’s Oatmeal the blind steer, not steak,” said one caller.
An email from Georgia Cartwright, a rancher from Benbrook, read: “We have older Texas Longhorn steers that would welcome the company of Oatmeal. If we can help in any way, please let me know.”
Other readers weren’t as kind and on the Star-Telegram’s Facebook page posted hateful comments toward Kendyll, whose father grew increasingly upset with the reaction.
On Friday, Williams said that he fully supports the Stock Show’s decision to move Oatmeal to A&M.
“We support whatever decision they decided to make,” Williams said. “I hope it puts some closure to this.”
He said he hopes the money raised by those wanting to rescue Oatmeal would be donated to A&M as well.
Williams said both he and Kendyll were thankful “that other place didn’t get him” — referring to King-Sonnen’s Rowdy Girl Sanctuary.
He said Kendyll is focused on getting other steers ready to show, including Oatmeal’s little brother, Jigsaw, who they plan to enter in the San Antonio Stock Show, which began this week.
Whether they make a quick trip over to College Station to visit Oatmeal “will be up to her,” Williams said.
Staff writer Bill Hanna contributed to this report.