Last week, city councillors in Whitehorse narrowly voted down a proposal to introduce “Meatless Mondays,” which would have made Yukon’s capital the first municipality in Canada to officially encourage its residents to avoid meat one day a week. “The [northern] diet has lots of meat,” says massage therapist Andrew Buchan, who, along with Suat Tuzlak, a local vegan bakery owner, introduced the proposal. Traditionally, much of the meat consumed in the city came from wild game, the activists say, which is usually leaner and healthier. Today, they say, much of the meat is factory-farmed.
Healthier eating isn’t the only goal of the program, which has taken hold in cities like San Francisco and Tel Aviv. (No Canadian cities have officially adopted it, but vegetarian groups promote Meatless Mondays; in Quebec, it’s called “Lundi sans viande.”) The environment is another impetus, especially in a place like Whitehorse, where groceries are often shipped thousands of miles before reaching store shelves. Shipping meat up North “takes a lot of fossil fuels,” says Buchan, which adds to the price tag: last Thanksgiving, one remote Arctic store made headlines across the country when it charged $200 for a turkey. According to Buchan, some local produce is available around Whitehorse during the short summer growing season. (The territory has about 160 working farms, according to the Yukon Agricultural Association.)
And yet, by a count of four to three, city councillors rejected the proposal, which would have encouraged restaurants, grocery stores and schools to offer more veggie-based options on Mondays; they said it wasn’t up to them to tell people how to eat. Buchan and Tuzlak aren’t giving up the cause. “We’re going to try to talk to the schools,” says Buchan, “and talk to the hospital, and get the word out.”