Blind Steer Sold For Slaughter Is On His Way To Freedom
It turns out, he's so much more than 964 pounds of prime beef.
Oatmeal, the blind steer whose heart-wrenching goodbye with the 13-year-old girl who raised him captured the world's attention, will no longer be processed by a meat packing plant.
"This arrangement furthers the Stock Show's mission of educating tomorrow's leaders in the livestock and food industry," Texas state representative Charlie Geren, who's also the event's vice president, said in the 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," added Geren, is up for re-election in the state's District 99.
While it's unclear what Oatmeal's role will specifically be at the school, Geren told the Fort Worth Star-Telegram that he would "help teach kids with judging at livestock shows." At the very least, it's a long way from the Corpus Christi feedlot, where the steer had been awaiting slaughter alongside hundreds of livestock.
The show also released Kane Beef, the company that bought Oatmeal at auction, of its contractual obligation to process Oatmeal.
Over the past few days, Oatmeal has become a beacon of hope for legions advocating for change to the way the current agricultural system works with young Texans.
"It's a system that provides these young children with a way to go to college, while teaching them that killing the animal at the end of the day is part of the food chain and they must accept this," Renee King-Sonnen, owner of Rowdy Girl Sanctuary told The Dodo. "It's called the trail of tears."
In early February, Oatmeal, who was born with such severe cataracts he could only detect vague shapes, was sold at the Fort Worth Stock Show for $8,000.
The story of the girl who raised the steer, and formed a powerful bond with him before sobbingly bidding him goodbye at auction, captured headlines around the world.
"She's always gotten close to the animals she shows, but she never got this close before," her grandmother, Alicia Mazoch, told the Fort Worth Star-Telegram.
The sorrowful saga also fuelled a powerful social media campaign - a campaign Sonnen-King found herself at the center of earlier this week.
"I'm getting calls about Oatmeal every three or four minutes," she said. "Even people from Fort Worth are calling asking, 'What can I do? What can I do?'"
Sonnen-King directed people to get in touch with Geren. But even her discussions with the state representative bore little fruit.
"Absolutely, it was no at that point," she said.
For their part, stock show organizers claim they began discussing a different fate for Oatmeal after learning he had cataracts.
"Upon learning the steer had cataracts, members of the veterinary community and others began exploring opportunities to further understanding and education on the steer's condition in a university setting," Friday's press release said.
Regardless of the reasons for the show's about-face, livestock proponents made it clear that steers like Oatmeal are born to be slaughtered.
Writing in Beef Magazine, Amanda Radke called out Oatmeal's supporters for "equating a market steer to a pet."
Matt Brockman, the show's publicity manager, put it more bluntly.
"You can develop a bond with an animal, but at the end of the day we know why they're here," he told the Star-Telegram. "These kids are providing a safe and nutritious source of protein."
The animals, of course. Not the kids. Unless they're goats. Then that's fine.