Professor Scott Nearing
IVU Executive Committee / International Council 1959-82
Extracts from 'Living the Good Life', by Scott and Helen nearing, first published in 1954
The book describes their 20 years of self-sufficiency in Vermont, 1932-52. The edition on the right, from amazon.com, combines this with 'Continuing the Good Life', published in 1979.
Chapter 2 - Our Design for Living
. . . 7. We will keep no animals. Almost without exception, Vermont farmers have animals, often in considerable variety. We do not eat animals, or their products, and do not exploit them. We thus escape the servitude and dependence which tie both farmer and animal together. The old proverb "No man is free who has servant" could well read "No man is free who has an animal."
Animal husbandry on a New England farm involves building and maintaining not only sheds but barns and the necessary fences, and also the cutting or buying of hay. Into this enterprise goes a large slice of the farmer's time. Farm draft animals work occasionally but eat regularly. Many of them eat more than they produce and thus are involuntary parasites. All animals stray at times, even with the best of fences, and like all runaway slaves, must be followed and brought back to servitude. The owners of horses, cattle, pigs and chickens wait on them regularly, as agrarian chamber maids, feeding, tending them and cleaning up after them. Bernard Shaw has said: "Millions of men, from the shepherd to the butcher, become mere valets of animals while the animals live, and their executioners afterwards."
We believe that all life is to be respected - non-human as well as human. Therefore, for sport we neither hunt nor fish, nor do we feed on animals. Furthermore, we prefer, in our respect for life, not to enslave or exploit our fellow creatures. Widespread and unwarranted exploitation of domestic animals includes robbing them of their milk or their eggs as well as harnessing them to labor for man. Domestic animals, whether cows, horses, goats, chickens, dogs or cats are slaves. Humans have the power of life or death over them. Men buy them, own them, sell them, work them, abuse and torture them and have no compunctions against killing and eating them. They compel animals to serve them in multitudinous ways. If the animals resist, rebel or grow old, they are sent to the butcher or else are shot out of hand.
Cats and dogs live subservient lives under the table tops of humans. Domestic pets kill and drive away wild creatures, whose independent, self-respecting lives seem far more admirable than those of docile dish-fed retainers. We enjoy the wild creatures, and on the whole think they are more lithe, beautiful and healthy than the run of cats and dogs, although some of out best friends in Vermont have been canine and feline neighbours.
While remaining friends with all kinds of animals, we preferred to be free from dependents and dependence. Many a farmer, grown accustomed to animal-tending chores and to raising food for animals instead of for himself, could thus find his worktime cut in half.
Chapter 5 - Eating for Health
The foods we chose to live on were those that had the simplest, closest and most natural relationship to the soil. Jared Elliot called them "the clean productions of the earth." All foods, animal as well as vegetable, come from the land, but raw fruits, nuts and vegetables are the simplest, come most directly and in the closest connection. They appeal to the taste with no adulterants, with no added flavoring or condiments, come crammed with vitamins and minerals and involve the least care and cooking. We might call them primary foods.
Dairy products are foods at second or third-hand, reaching humans through the bodies of animals which feed on the produce of the soil. Milk is the secretion of the mammary glands of cows, goats or sheep. Cheese is a coagulation of the curd of this liquid. Eggs are the reproductive media of birds. Milk is a highly concentrated food, especially designed to stimulate rapid growth in the early stages of development. Human milk should normally be for baby humans, cow's milk for calves, etc. A calf doubles it weight in a month, a human baby in six months. Food intended by nature for one is not necessarily a desirable food for the other. Adults of an breed should have been weaned and past the milk stage of feeding.
. . . We were looking for a kindly, decent, clean and simple way of life. Long ago we decided to live in the vegetarian way, without killing or eating animals; and lately we have largely ceased to use dairy products and have allied ourselves with the vegans, who use and eat no animal products, butter, cheese, eggs or milk. This is all in line with our philosophy of the least harm to the least number and the greatest good to the greatest number of life forms.
. . . With vegetables, fruits, nuts and cereals we proved that one could maintain a healthy body as an operating base for a sane mind and a purposeful harmless life.
Chapter 7 - Living in a Community
. . . Perhaps the most consistent and emphatic disapproval was directed against our diet. . . . we ate raw food that, according to Vermont practices, should have been cooked, and we ate cooked weeds and outlandish things that never should be eaten at all. That we ate no meat was in itself strange; but during our entire twenty years in Vermont we never baked a pie, we seldom ate cake or cookies and almost never doughnuts. In a community which serves pie, cake and doughnuts for two if not three meals a day, conduct such as ours was not only unbelievable but reprehensible. We simply failed to live up to the accepted Vermont pattern.
To the credit of Vermont conservatism it must be said that during the two decades of our stay, after innumerable discussions and long-drawn-out arguments on the subject of white flour, white bread, white sugar, pies, pastries, the necessity for wanting raw vegetables, and the revolting practice of consuming decaying animal carcasses, no native Vermont family of our acquaintance made any noticeable change in its foods habits.
Chapter 8 - A Balance Sheet for the Vermont Project
. . . Anyone was welcome to occupy the guesthouse, and no one ever paid for room or board. . . Many a morning, at breakfast, a whole family would stroll into our kitchen, "Good morning, we slept in your guest house last night." Then they would sit down for breakfast.
Ah, there came the rub. Most of them were in for a shock. No coffee, no cereal, no bacon, no eggs, no toast, no pancakes or maple syrup. Just apples, and sunflower seeds, and a black molasses drink. Such a fare sent many a traveler on his way soon enough.
Scott Nearing's role in IVU