A shark’s mutilated body made of delectable sushi, a hermit crab lugs around a shell made of instant ramen packaging and a cup of frappuccino is filled with amphibians and reptiles of all sorts. These are some of the weird and macabre sights that appear in Ryan McCulloh’s surreal art. His pieces always feature two things: food and wildlife. By portraying them together, McCulloh has created clever and easy-to-understand illustrations of the world’s food and beverage industry's adverse effect on its wildlife. His pieces become a call to action for the public and industry specialists alike to take appropriate measures to ensure that the food and beverage industry adopts best practices that do not harm the depicted wildlife. This makes his pieces relevant to the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals of Responsible Consumption and Production, Life on Land and Life Below Water.

Photograph of Ryan McCulloh in his studio. Image courtesy of @ryanmcc_art/Instagram.

Each of McCulloh's pieces alludes to a specific food and its effect on the world’s wildlife. For example, take his Cold Blooded Frappuccino piece, depicting reptiles and amphibians cramped inside the iconic Starbucks Frappuccino cup. This may well be an allusion to what The Guardian calls ‘the disposable cup crisis,’ a plastic, styrofoam and paper pollution phenomenon generated by the single-use cups used by Starbucks and other to-go coffee services.

Cold Blooded Frappuccino by Ryan McCulloh. Image courtesy of Ryan McCulloh’s Etsy.

The Guardian has found that despite individual companies creating Bring Your Own Cup (BYOC) campaigns to create less waste, one single-use plastic cup still contributes 10-30g of CO2 into the atmosphere. Most of the generated plastic waste (10m tons a year) will also likely end up in oceans and landfills, directly affecting the lives of the animals that McCulloh has depicted inside his Frappuccino cup.

Ramen Hermit Crab by Ryan McCulloh. Image courtesy of Ryan McCulloh’s Etsy.

The International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN) has found that, overall, plastic pollution causes wildlife everything from ingestion to entanglement and habitat destruction. McCulloh has also depicted this in his piece Ramen Hermit Crab, where a hermit crab is wearing a ramen cup as its shell. This behaviour has been observed in nature as hermit crabs frequently mistake marine debris with cavities as snail shells. In the same corollary, a study conducted in Cocos (Keeling) Islands, Australia, has found that more than half a million hermit crabs die each year due to the phenomenon. 

Spicy Shark Roll by Ryan McCulloh. Image courtesy of @ryanmcc_art/Instagram.

In his piece Spicy Shark Roll, by depicting an anguished shark as delectable sushi, McCulloh highlights the harmful effect that shark consumption has on their species and the environment. The World Wildlife Fund (WWF) has found that excessive shark fishing for consumption creates an ecological imbalance. It increases the number of medium sized carnivorous fish, lessens the amount of smaller prey fish and creates an explosion of algae population that would have otherwise been eaten by the small fish. When the algae population booms, coral life and ocean water oxygen quality deteriorates, endangering all life in surrounding seas.

Eight Legged Merlot by Ryan McCulloh. Image courtesy of Ryan McCulloh’s Etsy.

These are just a few examples of how Ryan McCulloh’s illustrations help highlight the negative impact of the food and beverage industry on the planet’s wildlife. By creating these brightly coloured and seemingly playful pieces, McCulloh poignantly urges industry professionals and consumers alike to make better environmental choices.

Find out more about Ryan McCulloh’s illustrations and their other initiatives by visiting their Instagram @ryanmcc_art.

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