[This review was published in the December 1982 issue of Universitas, the national publication of University Professors for Academic Order.]  


Book Review


The Right to Hunt

James B. Whisker

North River Press, 1981


            West Virginia University political science professor James B. Whisker, a UPAO board member, has applied his background in the diverse areas of history, philosophy and government to provide a fascinating and instructive sequel to his earlier book Our Vanishing Freedom: The Right to Keep and Bear Arms (1973).

            The title to The Right to Hunt will be misleading if it suggests that the book is mainly a legal brief justifying hunting for sport.  Whisker does discuss the legal issues, but he goes into a lot more besides: into a sweeping historical survey of the role that hunting has played in human development; and into an in-depth discussion of the theological, metaphysical and secular-prudential issues that are raised by the modern debate over hunting and over the rights, if any, of animals.

            The result is a book that is valuable in two very different dimensions.  Most obviously, of course, it will be useful to those who are concerned about the specific issue of hunting.  These readers will find its discussion penetrating and will benefit from its many notes and bibliographical references.

            There is a broader dimension, however, in which The Right to Hunt is of intellectual interest.  Whisker’s discussion can be seen as a case study, so to speak, that takes a topical issue and provides a comparative analysis of the epistemological, ontological and ethical issues that come into focus through it.  His book is accordingly one that can be put to excellent use in such a course as, say, “Comparative Systems of Thought.”

            Whisker’s own position is pro-hunting, but this has not prevented him from treating fairly the various sides to the controversy.  His conclusions are moderate and well supported.

            My own reservation is not attributable to him but to the content of the debate itself.  It seems to me that stronger secular-prudential cases could be made by each side.  Those who oppose hunting would do well to speak in terms of the civilized values that are inherent in the progressive lowering of mankind’s “threshold of compassion.”  Those who favoring hunting can emphasize the continuing need, within at least some members of a society, of a “masculine sense of life.”  By this, I mean a set of values that, without being destructively Nietzschean, eschews the effete and remains willing to come to grips with all of the sterner realities that are still so very much a part of human existence. 

                                                                                                                                                                                    Dwight D. Murphey