Living in the north will require a lot of compromise. Compromise due to the availability of goods primarily, which is fine – except if they tease your principles. For instance, I’m a vegetarian. I’ve been a vegetarian for over half of my life now. I plan on remaining that way after we move to Nunavut. Yes, this will likely be exceptionally expensive if I shop exclusively for meat substitutes. However, it will also mean consuming a lot of fresh produce – which as even those of us in southern Canada know, can be pricey at best, and not so fresh, at worst. I’m not concerned though…this is something I can live with.
Sometimes it's hard to know which way to go... (Source: Andrew Beierle, sxc.hu)
The problem I’m facing now is due to cold weather. With temperature potential of well below even -20° C on a regular basis, all recommendations point to animal-based clothing. I have investigated the option of synthetic materials compared to items like goose and duck down, and fur. The synthetics would likely keep me warm enough on most days, but perhaps not on those days where extreme temperatures and wind chill dip to below -60° C. We humans just simply have not been able to replicate the natural insulation that most polar animals have adapted with and survived through thousands of years. The other issue is that most synthetic materials require a huge amount of energy and create waste in excess of items where animal products have been used.
You see my dilemma.
And so, I must consider what my principles mean to me. I’ve always lived my life with the intention of minimizing my impact on the environment as much as possible. I recognize that there are times where we must live off the earth, and absorb its resources – but we must never forget that we have been given so much from it. I am not a vegan, so I am not completely against using animal products. I do however try to use as little of them as possible. If I do not need to use a product create by or from an animal, I will not. If a suitable replacement is available, I will use that instead of the animal product. This however can be a very expensive endeavour, and being completely animal-free takes dedication.
I’ve researched one particular company: Canada Goose. They are very forthright with regards to their animal usage and policies. Their policies are sustainable and extensive testing of their products have allowed them to use the minimum amount of fur as possible. They do not use endangered animals and respect hunting policies and limits. They do not purchase down or feathers from suppliers that obtain these products by live plucking – this is an inhumane and cruel method of harvest. Finally, they truly support the sustainability of traditional native hunting methods – considering this is an Inuit territory that we will be moving to, this is perhaps one of the most important parts.
As I have grown and accepted my reasons for becoming vegetarian in the first place, I believe my beliefs have matured. Some people may call me hypocritical for even considering clothing made from animal products, but I’m not so sure. I’ve never pushed my beliefs on others. I’ve never stated that I do not ever use animal products. I’ve only ever been a supporter of environmental and humane animal treatment. I do not agree with fur for vanity, but I have always been a supporter of traditional native hunting rights…there is a level of respect intrinsic in the activity that some of us that use animal products just do not have. I am not against those who eat meat – I just prefer that if they choose to do so, that efforts are made to understand where that meat comes from – in the hopes that humane methods of harvesting are sought.
It would appear that I have an important decision to make – one that I think I have already made. I’m quite certain that I will have to succumb to the wilds that lay ahead of me and buy for survival, rather than principle. Though, when it all comes down to it, I think that’s a good principle to have.