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An uninspired argument for the natural place of hunting in human society and the human psyche. Environmental psychologist Swan (Nature as Teacher and Healer, not reviewed) has written a thorough response to those who denounce hunting as cruelty to animals. Growing up in rural Michigan, he learned the excitement and responsibilities of the hunt from the time he was old enough to handle a BB gun. Animal-rights groups who harass hunters, Swan says, should remember that hunters are frequently the staunchest supporters of conservation and wildlife management. Far from being sadists, he adds, they have experienced the moment when they hold in the sight of their gun the life that will provide their dinner; this awakes in them an awe of the delicate balances that make up the web of nature. He argues that humans are, after all, carnivorous animals, a truth that the buffers of our ""civilized"" world have enabled us to forget. In an age when inner-city children are being slaughtered by predators with AK-47s, the author finds painful irony in activists' frenzied protests against licensed hunting. Swan hurts his strong case with an undisguised contempt for his ideological opponents. Calling animal-rights activists a ""new subspecies of human,"" he never lets a rational voice from the other side balance his position, and he often strays from his subjeect into the ethical questions of vegetarianism and animal testing. He also has an unfortunate tendency to rhapsodize about nature with a hackneyed, fuzzy mysticism that makes him sound like a New Age guru. He would win more converts if he cut out some of the sermons on spirituality and stuck to his lyrical hunting tales. Swan ultimately tells too much and shows too little in his prosaic defense of the elemental necessity of hunting.

Pub Date: Nov. 24th, 1994
Page count: 282pp
Publisher: HarperSanFrancisco