“Pretty much all the honest truth telling there is in the world, is done by children”, is how author and poet, Oliver Wendell Holmes put it. His quote came to mind when I interviewed a young girl about her ambition to see an end to factory farming and preserve the health and well-being of all animals on our planet.
Ahead of the United Nations Food Systems Summit on 23rd September, I wanted to recognise the voice of young people and, for reasons that will become apparent, Izzy Rhodes became a natural choice.
Recently turned 13, I first met Izzy three years ago, when we were taking photographs of farm animals. It was evident that Izzy had an immediate bond with the animals. Whether they were chickens, cows, or pigs, Izzy showed no fear, only respect and compassion. Within minutes she was talking, feeding and stroking them. Regardless of size or species, I was struck by the completely natural way she was interacting. Her love for the farm animals was clear to see.
Roll on 3 years, and in my Inbox I received a video made by Izzy . It was a simple, but hard-hitting video aimed to try and wake up the world to the damage caused by factory farming. Not for the first, or last time, I was in awe of her passion and her depth of knowledge for one so young. I asked Izzy to join me in conversation about her beliefs and what drives her.
Q: Philip: Can you tell me where your passion for animals started and why they are so important to you?
A: Izzy: I have always adored animals — of every size and shape, from pets to wildlife — any animal at all really. Animals are my earliest memory, the first thing I can recall when I was little. The family dogs and cats were my true friends and followed me everywhere. They slept on my bed and were my comfort in difficult times. They don’t judge you and are always there for you, day or night.
Q: Philip: What is your favourite animal?
A: Izzy: My favourite animals are horses. I am so very lucky to be able to borrow one at the moment, although he goes back to his owner in September when I go back to school. But I love horses because they just allow you to be free. When you are with them, whether you are just riding them or looking after them or grooming them, they just take away all negative thoughts and worries. Being with horses and any animal really, just lets you be happy. And I think he loves me, as much as I love him.
Q: Philip: Many people love their pets, but you have chosen to speak up for farm animals and make a stand against factory farming, why?
A: Izzy: Well, it truly shocked me when I heard the facts and figures. It’s so hard and heart breaking to even think about the fact that for every 1 billion people at the moment, it takes 10 billion farm animals [a year] to feed them. It’s horrific and scary at the same time because how can we continue with that when more and more people are being born? And the way they are kept in dark sheds, and poor conditions where they can’t even turn around. It’s like a jail but worse! Just horrific! The way that chickens have more room in the oven than in their cages and that the mummy pigs can’t lie down, let alone turn around — you couldn’t make it up. Why do people stand for it?
Q: Philip: Given this, how do you think you can make a difference?
A: Izzy: Well, I’d like to think that perhaps some people might listen to a younger person being outraged by the way grown-ups treat farm animals. Maybe I can help tell younger people to care about what they eat. I know if they saw some of the pictures and videos I have watched they would be just as shocked as I am. The trouble is people don’t think about it very much, they are too busy doing other things, things they find more exciting.
Q: Philip: Please can you tell me how your strong feelings might have changed the way your family now think about their food and what you all eat?
A: Izzy: Yes, my Nan will tell you too, we only ever eat organic eggs and meat and fish. That’s when we eat it of course, we hardly eat any meat in the house. Pizzas with tomato and cheese is quite a big meal here. We’re trying vegan cheese at the moment. Nan buys veggie meatballs for spaghetti and veggie burgers. I love fruit and veg and oh and vegan Magnums! I never ever drink milk.
Q: Philip: How do your friends react when you remind them how important it is to care about what they eat too?
A: Izzy: Well so many of them have never thought about it, or never been told, or never been told in our school. I also think so many people still think being young and caring about the environment is still a bit of a freaky thing, like one has to be with Extinction Rebellion or a demonstrator or something like that, but I am just an ordinary girl who cares about her future and cares desperately about farm animals and wants to try and change things.
Q: Philip: Thank goodness Izzy, we need more people like you. Attention is now focused on the United Nations Food Systems Summit which is coming up on 23rd September: if you were in the room with all these leaders, what would you say to them?
A: Izzy: Well, I’d like grown-ups to actually do what they say for once and not stand up and spout lots of clever words and facts and then do absolutely nothing! How would they feel if their own precious family pet was caged and could never lie down or turn around? If they have children, what sort of planet are they leaving for them? Their grandchildren may only see lions, or elephants or gorillas in story books or on their bedroom walls. This beautiful planet will be like something out of a Play station game — blackness, no animals, no butterflies, just people with guns trying to protect what little fresh water and food exists. They are the people who have done this. They are the people who are talking on a stage, but doing nothing. They are the people that will be dead soon and they won’t live to see the world that they have ruined.
Q: Philip: When you look ahead 10 years, I understand you’ll be in your early twenties by then. What do you think will have changed and what is your greatest hope for the world?
A: Izzy: I think, and hope, we will all be eating differently, more veggie things for sure. More things that are local to where we live, I think a lot more people will be growing their own food. I have just recently been privileged enough to move to the countryside and I have noticed that change around me.
As for my greatest hope, it’s that the world is still here! Not burnt, not flooded, but most of all that grown-ups have understood that factory farming had to end for the animals, the wildlife and our climate and that they understand that the way they treated and tortured these animals was just disgusting. It makes me ashamed to think of it.
But at the moment, I feel the world is like the Garden of Eden, and the grown-ups are all snakes, they are destroying the Garden before the children can even play in it.
As I ended the call, I felt invigorated and excited to have spoken to such a strong and passionate young person.
We are hugely fortunate to have such committed young people who genuinely care about the other creatures that share our planet, about the injustices of factory farming and our broken food system and to want to stand up and do something about it.
Now over to the grown-ups to do something about it.
Note: Not surprisingly Izzy’s video mentioned above, was picked up by Sky TV when it was shared on social media. As a result, Izzy will be presenting their SKY KIDS FIY news show on factory farming over the weekend of 18th/19th September, just before the UN Food Systems Summit. Please do tune in to see it