Heartsblood: Hunting, Spirituality, and Wildness in America
In this age of boneless chicken breasts and drive-thru Happy Meals, why do some humans still hunt? Is it a visceral, tooth-and-claw hunger for meat, tied in a primitive savage knot with an innate lust for violence and domination? Or might it be a hunger of an entirely different sort? And if so, what?.
In Heartsblood, writer and veteran outdoorsman David Petersen offers a thoroughly informed, unsettlingly honest, intensely personal exploration of this increasingly contentious issue. He draws clear distinctions between true hunting and contemporary hunter behavior, praising what's right about the former and damning what's wrong with the latter, as he seeks to render the terms "hunter" and "antihunter" palpable-to put faces on these much-used but little-understood generalizations.
Petersen looks at the evolutionary roots and philosophical underpinnings of hunting, and offers a compelling portrait of an "animistic archetype"-a paradigm for the true hunter/conservationist-that is in sharp contrast with today's technology-laden, gadget-loving sport hunter. He considers the social and ecological implications of trophy hunting and deconstructs the "Bambi syndrome"-the oversentimentalization of young animals by most Americans, including many hunters. He also explores gender issues in hunting, and highlights important qualities that are largely missing in today's mentoring of tomorrow's hunters.
Throughout, Petersen emphasizes the fundamental spiritual aspects of hunting, and offers numerous finely drawn and compelling first-person hunting narratives that explain and provide substance to his arguments. Along with that personal experience, he draws on philosophy, evolutionary theory, biology, and empirical studies to create an engaging and literate work that offers a unique look at hunting, hunters, and, in the words of the author, "life's basic truths.
Natural-history writer David Petersen's Heartsblood is not so much about hunting, although that controversial subject is an important part of the book, as is a lively, deeply intelligent discussion of what it means to be a human animal aware of what lies outside. Petersen suggests that a true engagement with the natural world requires a keen knowledge of its workings--of how water flows, of how animal populations wax and wane--and a recognition of the realities of life and death. Petersen brings an uncommonly broad perspective to this highly personal, passionate and deeply persuasive argument for responsible hunting. He reminds us that humans have been predominantly hunters for 99% of our species' history; by comparison agriculture occupies merely a brief moment in the human timeline and the era of shrink-wrapped supermarket meat even less. Biologically, we were built to hunt, he contends, a reality carved into the human genome as deeply as wildness imprints the genetic makeup of prey. Denying our genetic predisposition makes us less than fully human, he argues, which will undoubtedly strike many as radical. But Petersen is not a polemicist bent on pushing every citizen into hunting. In fact, he calls himself a "fence-straddler," an advocate of animal welfare (which he differentiates from animal rights) who has been criticized by antihunters as "rabidly prohunting" and knocked by hunters' rights advocates as "an anti in hunter's camouflage." Much of Petersen's argument (his delineation of the three different types of hunters, his criticism of holier-than-thou vegetarianism, his disdain of trophy hunting) treads a well-worn path, but this ambivalence lends his conclusions greater credibility. More unique and provocative is his contention that humans, far from evolving beyond the need to kill our own food, instead risk devolving when we avoid facing firsthand the deaths that sustain our survival. Though he goes overboard in strumming the mystical chord and seems at times too fond of inflated language, Petersen's ambitious analysis of this contentious issue is impressively well reasoned. (Sept.) Copyright 2000 Reed Business Information, Inc. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.
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