A tattoo artist in Suffolk, England is channeling his love for animals and the grief of Pokémon fans saddened by the looming departure of the Japanese anime show’s lead protagonist Ash Ketchum into a personal mission to spare others the heartache of being separated from their pets.
“Many people are stressed and struggling to keep on top of their bills and keeping the electric and gas on at home is part of the reason many feel they can’t afford their pets anymore,” William Langford, 30, owner of Zen Tattoo Art studio in the town of Stowmarket within Suffolk, told The NonProfit Times.
His plan is to tattoo likenesses of all 151 original Pokémon characters on fellow fans by the end of this year and donate the proceeds to Blue Cross, a well-known pet charity in the United Kingdom. It comes at a time when many are having to choose between feeding themselves and feeding their pets amid the U.K.’s worst cost-of-living crisis in a generation, he said.
The price of each tattoo varies according to its size and complexity, but Langford said he hopes to raise at least $5,000 (£4,000) by the end of this year.
The idea for his fundraiser was prompted by the announcement late last year that the show’s ever-popular Ash Ketchum would be retired from his perch as the “greatest Pokémon trainer ever” and lead character of the long-running series. Pokémon has developed something of a cult following among Gen Z and young Millennials since its inception in 1997.
Langford recently completed eight tattoos, including ones of Pikachu, Snorlax, Mew, Slowbro, Cubone and Bulbasaur that he’s posted on his studio’s Instagram page. He thought he had reached the limit of Pokémon fans like himself interested in receiving one, but he said interest has exploded since he went public with his fundraiser. He’s since booked 10 more people and has lost count of how many others have inquired about getting one to support the cause.
Americans, too, have been feeling the effects of inflation, but the crisis has been especially severe in the U.K. and parts of Europe.
Regular gasoline prices in the U.K. have skyrocketed to a recent average of £1.48 per liter, which is a 129% increase from a year ago. That comes to $6.82 per gallon in U.S. dollars, more than double the U.S. average of $3.39 that Americans were paying at the start of last week according to the latest government data. Electricity prices in the U.K. have also risen 66.7% during the last year, according to the U.K.’s Office for National Statistics.
Many in the U.K. have turned to pet food banks to avoid the heartbreak of giving up a pet they no longer can afford, but animal shelters there are still being inundated by people forced to surrender pets due to financial issues.
Langford said that seeing their plight spurred him to use his talents to try to help as many of them as possible. He’s has been tattooing since he was 18.
“I love animals,” he told The NonProfit Times. “I have grown up around animals, my family always had dogs when I was younger, and I have a dog now along with some fish and snakes. If I wasn’t doing tattoos, I think I’d be working with animals in some way.”
He’s since set up a GoFundMe page at www.gofund.me/1E82C63E where people can donate to the cause. However, he prefers that people donate directly to Blue Cross at www.bluecross.org.uk/donate to bypass the administrative fee charged by GoFundMe.
Blue Cross famously counted the late Queen Elizabeth II among its patrons. The late queen, who had a lifelong fondness for corgis and horses, even visited the charity’s newly refurbished animal hospital when it reopened in London in 2001.
“I’m just trying to do something nice to help some animals in a time where the people caring for them may be struggling,” Langford said. “I love my work, I love Pokémon, and I love animals so it’s fun for me to do this. And if I’m honest, I’m surprised at how public it’s become.”