Vegan bodybuilder Mr Universe is now a tattoo artist
(Picture: Barny du Plessis)

Mr Universe, the ethical vegan champion bodybuilder, has turned his hand to the tattoo gun.

Barny has competed in almost 60 shows during his 20 year career flexing his pecs on stage, and scooped multiple national and international bodybuilding titles including Mr Universe in 2014.

But now Barny, 43, has embarked on a career change and is offering cruelty-free ink.

(Picture: Barny du Plessis)
(Picture: Barny du Plessis)
(Picture: Barny du Plessis)
(Picture: Barny du Plessis)

The new artist residing at Demon Inkorporation tattoo and piercing studio in London says his service is pretty unique.

Tattoos are not often suitable for those concerned about animal welfare because the inks contain ingredients derived from animals and artists often practice on pig skin.

Barny says that as vegan tattoos and artists are hard to come by his phone has been ringing off the hook for bookings, despite only being in the early stages of his career.

(Picture: Barny du Plessis)
(Picture: Barny du Plessis)
(Picture: Barny du Plessis)
(Picture: Barny du Plessis)

He says: ‘I am a keen, recently qualified tattoo artist working now at Demon Inkorporation in New Eltham.

‘I’m already getting bookings from vegans far and wide who are prepared to travel just to get a vegan tattoo by a vegan artist.

‘I am still junior so my skills are still quite basic, but time and experience will develop my abilities.’

The artist specialises in vegan tattoos and offers something that many others can’t guarantee. All products he uses are vegan friendly – and he is an ethical vegan himself.

(Picture: Barny du Plessis)
(Picture: Barny du Plessis)

He says: ‘At Demon Ink I am the only vegan artist and supplier of vegan tattoo products. The studio is happy to include this important aspect and service as they are aware of the need in the growing marketplace.’

But Barny says his tattoos are for all – regardless of whether they eat meat or not: ‘Both Demon studios use vegan certified inks already anyway, as they’re of better quality. I offer tattoos to everyone not just vegans.’

The former bodybuilder explains how he decided to pursue a career in tattooing.

(Picture: Barny du Plessis)
(Picture: Barny du Plessis)

He says: ‘Whilst on our six-month sabbatical in Spain a few years ago, my wife Josie and I had time to reflect and seriously think about our lives and our futures.

‘It was apparent that we had spent the majority of our time pursuing a career in the bodybuilding and fitness industry in various degrees. We were under no illusions that we weren’t getting any younger and our years left as competitive athletes, and able to work a high output of physical capacity for years to come were limited.

‘In the knowledge that the fitness industry was changing and was heading in a direction, we didn’t particularly want to be a part of it anymore.

(Picture: Barny du Plessis)
(Picture: Barny du Plessis)

‘This made us think we needed to act quick about what we realistically were able to do at our age and our level of skills.

‘As I had limited time, choice and funds available to me, Josie mentioned that I should consider tattooing.

Tattooing combines my artistic abilities with the knowledge of the body

‘Luckily we were friends with Barry and Karen Saunders who are the owners of Demon Inkorporation tattoo studios.

(Picture: Barny du Plessis)
(Picture: Barny du Plessis)

‘They offer two-year apprenticeships to talented artists wishing to pursue a career in tattooing, and I began mine whilst still in Spain then continued with it when we came back to the UK.

‘I finally finished in December 2016 and was immediately offered a chair in the new Demon Inkorporation studio, where I now reside.’

Barny, a former keen meat-eater, explains how he and his wife Josie, also a bodybuilder, now feel about the practice of consuming animal products.

(Picture: Barny du Plessis)
(Picture: Barny du Plessis)

He says: ‘The thought of people eating our fellow beings is a totally absurd, despicable, disgusting and violent act to us. It’s certainly not something we can or want to be involved in anyway whatsoever.

‘As vegans we passionately believe that animals are our fellow beings. We believe humans have a responsibility as the stewards of our planet and we should care for the planet and the animals not cause them any suffering, harm, torture, murder or indeed made entertainment for our benefit or gain.

‘It was very important to continue with this ethos in all aspects of our lives including work, so we decided to source and provide vegan friendly tattoo products in line with our ethics and beliefs and offer this to the vegan community who share the same beliefs as ourselves.’

(Picture: Barny du Plessis)
(Picture: Barny du Plessis)
(Picture: Barny du Plessis)
(Picture: Barny du Plessis)
(Picture: Barny du Plessis)
(Picture: Barny du Plessis)

Barny says vegan-friendly products and services are the way forward for the planet – and for good business.

‘The products I use contain natural ingredients this includes the inks, tattoo lubricant, aftercare, tattoo soap etc. It is apparent that not many tattoo artists in the world know much about the use of animal friendly products but there is a definite demand for it and the market is growing rapidly along with the ethical, vegan movement.

‘This is becoming a powerful movement.

Businesses who choose to ignore veganism are missing out on a market that is only going to grow

‘People are becoming more aware and want to do the right thing.

‘Vegans will only use products that are animal friendly and vegan. Better still, have a tattoo provided by a fellow vegan. We know that deliberate pressure and demands force the industry to change, so this is what we hope for.

‘We vegans are staunch in our commitment to the cause and don’t compromise any standards and beliefs.’

(Picture: Barny du Plessis)
(Picture: Barny du Plessis)

Together with Josie, the couple want to expand their new career path.

Barny says: ‘Josie and I dream to have our own vegan studio in the future with Josie’s holistic therapies and a store selling all kinds of products we are interested in ourselves.’

He adds: ‘My wife and I train together and help out at a local animal sanctuary in Norwich, where we have recently moved from. We helped out on Christmas Day.’

You can get tattooed by him at the studio in New Eltham, open Tuesday to Saturday 9.30am-6pm.

As a junior artist, Barny offers tattoos at a reduced rate for a short while before going full price.

MORE: Go Vegan World will be the first vegan campaign to feature at an international sporting event

MORE: Woman gets tattoo to match her rescue dog who was kept in a cage for six years