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Compassion, cover to cover

We chat to illustrator and author, Stanley Foo

With his twin passions of veganism and illustration, Stanley Foo works hard to portray animals as sentient and valued beings to both adults and children.

Stanley does this by creating impactful collections of art works that seek to make people question the norm, as well as via illustrated books for children that hope to incite curiosity and compassion in them as they grow. We talk to Stanley about how it all got started.

Tell us about your journey to veganism.

My journey is a bit of a long one… I went vegetarian 30 years ago announcing it to my family over Christmas dinner, telling them that this was the last time I would be eating meat! It's hard to imagine now, but for me, that seemed to be the 'vegan' of the day and I was doing all I could for the animals.

I knew Morrisey and River Phoenix were vegan, but when I look back at it, I don't think I really knew what that even meant… It seems so bizarre now! The information just wasn't readily available then.

Over the next 20 years I gradually stopped wearing leather, drinking milk, and eating eggs, which just seemed really weird! I started soaking up internet videos; Gary Yourofsky lectures and interviews, animal rights footage, and this eventually led me to Earthlings.

I watched that and everything clicked. The old cliché came true for me. I made the connection and went vegan in 2012.

When did you decide to combine veganism with art?

Around 2016 I decided I wanted to do something more proactive to help 'the cause'. I'd studied illustration at university, so along with my profession as a graphic designer, I set about using what I considered to be my best skills to try and make some sort of difference.

With online tools making it so easy to build a shop, promote yourself and even get a book printed, I was able to make the vision a reality.

Talk us through your V CUTS series? What do they seek to achieve?

The old butcher shop signs have always really annoyed me. How demeaning the labelling is, and how they turn these beautiful animals into segmented parts to be consumed, is just horrendous.

I wanted to 'reclaim' those images, and by using my own descriptive words, turn them into something beautiful. My main vision for them was to create a conversation piece in people's homes.

A meat-eater would see them on the wall and instantly think of the butcher shop signs of old… until they look a bit closer.

\"I wanted to 'reclaim' those images, and by using my own descriptive words, turn them into something beautiful\"

Tell us about your debut children's book, Just like me! How does it help children to understand compassion towards animals?

My debut book talks about how similar we humans are to animals, and how we all have body parts that are used for the same purpose. To make this point as clear and obvious as I could, I came up with the simple, but effective title: 'Just Like Me!'

'Pigs have ears to hear with… Just Like Me! Lambs legs have legs to jump with… Just Like Me!' It's a simple idea that small children inherently understand. By relating themselves to animals, they can have nothing but compassion towards them.

Why is this important?

Many adults will think of mint sauce if lambs' legs are mentioned. When I was researching the book, I innocently typed 'pigs' ears' into Google… Try it and see what comes up, if you dare.

The Google search algorithm certainly doesn't think that pigs have ears to hear with. I think it's such an important subject to communicate to young children so that they don't fall into the meat-eating mindset.

How useful is art in spreading awareness of animal welfare and vegan issues?

Combined with the internet, art is as important as anything we have to spread the vegan message. Whether that be paintings, music, literature, documentaries or more recently, TikTok videos. It's all about expression, creation and imagination.

For more from Stanley, visit stanleyfoo.com or follow his work on Instagram@stanleyfooworld

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