Ethical entrepreneur Isobel Davies talks about what inspired her to start a business and why humans are her least favourite animal.
How did you become interested in animal welfare?
It started in my garden shed, as a little girl I had a whole host of rescued hedgehogs, rabbits, newts, guinea pigs etc. I adored animals. When my family moved to Yorkshire I was introduced to larger ones, hanging out at the local riding stables, eventually taking it over with a friend when I was 13. Around that time I was exposed to the horrors that afflict the lives of farm animals. The battery hens, the lambs being ripped away from their mothers to be taken for fattening, the lorries of cows en route to slaughter. Going on holiday in our caravan we would invariably be parked in Dover alongside a lorry of calves headed for the Continent. I couldn’t bear it, it really distressed me. It was in those days that my feelings took root and the desire to do something about it.
How did you get started in business?
When I first moved to London I dabbled as a painter, then took up the saxophone and played in various avant-garde jazz ensembles. I progressed to become a singer/songwriter and recorded various records and toured a lot in Europe. When I started to fail to see the point of this I decided I would start a business, it seemed more meaningful and tangible.
What are you working on now?
I started Farmaround back in 1994. It was the first ever organic box scheme and I still run it today. I have fantastic, loyal, likeminded customers, many of whom have been with us for over twenty years. I am extremely fond of it and through the box scheme I have been able to promote sustainability, vegetarian/veganism, animal rights, everything I believe in. Within Farmaround I developed the brand Hen Nation, eggs from rescued hens that live out their natural lives in peace and safety.
I am also busy with my animal-welfare centric fashion label Izzy Lane. At the heart of the brand is my flock of sheep rescued from slaughter. They provide the wool which I then process through the West Yorkshire woollen mills and into our knitwear, woven coats and skirts, as well as throws, dog coats, socks and much more.
Tell us a bit about the Izzy Lane flock
The Izzy Lane flock is a mish-mash. Initially I rescued hundreds of Shetland and Wensleydale sheep from breeders. I took everything they were sending to slaughter – old ewes, ones which had miscarried, male lambs etc. Along the way I have ended up with others – I rescued a pen full of Texel lambs and a couple of old Swaledale ewes which were being loaded up to be taken to a halal abattoir. I bought them from the farmer.
I love my sheep; they are very gentle and clever. They reside happily here in the Yorkshire Dales where they will live out their natural lives.
Is there anyone who has particularly inspired you?
It has to have been my wonderful late parents….. for everything.
What achievements are you proudest of?
All the hundreds of animals I have been able to rescue and to have been acknowledged with awards from Compassion in World Farming and the RSPCA for the work I have done. I am proud to have started the first ever organic box scheme and the first fashion label using ‘slaughter-free’ wool.
What advice would you give someone who is thinking of starting an ethical business?
Please factor animal welfare into your ethics. So many ‘ethical’ companies are only concerned with the welfare of people and ignore the welfare of animals. To me that is unethical. Times are changing, the next generation won’t tolerate what my generation and previous generations have tolerated. Get with it, get on the cutting edge. Decide what you want the world to look like… and go and create it.
Do you have a favourite animal?
I love all animals equally, except perhaps humans. The human race is despicable in how it tortures, abuses and consumes practically every species on earth and is intent on destroying even the planet itself. The tide has to turn.