Mark Sullivan Video Death At My Feet - Reviewed and Ethics Evaluated

rookhawk

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After hearing so much chatter on this forum and elsewhere about Mr. Mark Sullivan, I decided to see for myself what makes this safari personality so polarizing. To do so, I watched his video “death at my feet” figuring that it would be the best representation of his values, body of work, hunting style, and persona. Considering that Mr. Sullivan is the PH in the video, the narrator, the producer and the distributor, I accept as gospel that he believes what he says and does since he has full creative control of the entire process.

The first thing that caught my attention is the name of the title “death at my feet”. It appears to sensationally captivate the target consumer with the term “death” as a lead-in for what is about to be watched as opposed to “fair chase”, “sport”, “safari” or any other terms. I did a cursory look at Mr. Sullivan’s body of work located here http://www.nitroexpresssafaris.com. It appears that Mr. Sullivan has made about 16 DVD videos of which 13 of the titles have “death” as part of the description. The only exceptions I could find were “Mbogo”, “Simba” and his "Dangerous Game Compilations”.

The second thing that I noticed is that the production quality was quite high and the content was pretty entertaining. I did notice that it was very pandering in the same way that a documentary by Michael Moore or Al Gore documentary may be construed by some viewers. Mr. Sullivan’s emphasis was fairly nuanced so I’ll attempt to deconstruct it further below, but his repeated leading questions and communications with clients were that he is doing hunting “the right way” by inducing charges from the animals. This I believe is the primary source of contention that creates mixed feelings from some viewers about his body of work although I’ve never seen anyone logically and morally deconstruct his beliefs to make clear what his “world view” actually is.

It is clear that Mr. Sullivan passionately believes that animals have differential value (monetary or intrinsic) based on the variability of what he considers an ethical hunt for one species of animal versus another in this video.

In several instances during the video Mr. Sullivan deferred or delayed the “coup de grace” on a wounded animal in order to protract the hunt in the hopes of inducing a charge (my opinion) or “letting the animal decide how he will die” (his quote). This was a common thread in this particular picture.

On several occasions in the video it was clear that the client (hunter) was not prepared to make the shots on the charges. This resulted in Mr. Sullivan taking the shot personally. On several other occasions Mr. Sullivan shot simultaneously with the clients on the animals. On a couple of occasions Mr. Sullivan admonished his clients not to shoot as they animals were too far away (15-20 feet) from the client.

As I slept on what I saw I tried to understand why some people would find some of the above objectionable and yet others would find it completely acceptable. After retreading the events over and over in my brain it sort of hit me as to why people galvanize on this personality in a manner that they would not on most other professional hunters. I believe Mr. Sullivan does not have a consistent system of values that can be applied consistently or logically across multiple situations. It is not that he is unprincipled, it is that one would not be able to infer his beliefs about situation B based on what we saw and heard from him in situation A on the video. Some viewers wouldn’t care much about such a dilemma and yet other temperaments would be troubled by this realization.

The things I personally concluded about Mark Sullivan through this video are as follows:

-Mark Sullivan believes in some of the charter of animal rights and is actually much closer aligned to the value system of ALF, PETA and HSUS than he would be to many conservation organizations. I realize that sounds inflammatory but that is why I had to deconstruct what he says and does to figure out what is going on in his head. Mr. Sullivan continually emphasizes that an animal “must decide how he will die” so he is implying a number of things it seems he truly believes.
A.) Primarily, he believes that the animal is endowed with a free will and a sentience to elect for a particular course of decisions on how its life will end. I would say that many people would say that there is an evolutionary “fight or flight” innate response in an animal so the animal is not “deciding” or “contemplating” death at all but rather is trying to determine if escape is possible until it feels so pressured that it must attack. Mr. Sullivan is endowing the animal with a specific right which many scientists would say is not understood by the animal that is actually just acting to stimulus in a predictable manner. In short, Mr. Sullivan believes that an animal should be given choice and has a right to make choices about its life and death to paraphrase his frequent comments.
B.) Secondarily, Mr. Sullivan believes that animals are so deserving of this particular suite of rights, the right to self determination of one’s death, that he does not believe in killing the animal without putting himself and his client in a hazardous situation at point blank range of a charge. This is an important point because to some, they would say that Mr. Sullivan has elevated the worth of the animal to that of a human, or has lowered the value of a human to that of an animal in this “life bargain” he describes frequently. In essence, it would not be moral in his worldview to kill the animal if the animal did not have the opportunity to attempt to kill him and his client. The aforementioned philosophy was exemplified as he passed on a charging hippo on land at 20' only to allow the animal to die in water in a more impressive charge. This would be a reasonably similar point of similarity between Mr. Sullivan and HSUS as it comes to animals rights and worth in that he endows the animal with these rights, but he robs of them of these rights using his own self-made moral compass by killing the same animal a few moments later because death in H2O is more moral to him than death on terra firma. This set of unusual moral principles could be viewed as inconsistent.
C.) Mr. Sullivan believes that humane dispatch of animals to end suffering is not the primary impetus for the hunter’s action or inaction on a hunt for a wounded animal. Many hunters believe once an animal is wounded that the absolute primary driver is to locate and humanely kill that animal expeditiously. Such a notion or worldview would be consistent with a Judeo-Christian-Muslim orthodox worldview that suggests man is superior to animals and that humanity that elevates humans should be focused on respect for animals as lower life forms. (only humans as predators possess an innate desire to prevent undue suffering to animals…animals don’t really care in such a manner) In short, Mr. Sullivan’s esteem and value that he places on an animal's right to choose its death is placed on a higher echelon than the human’s obligation to expeditiously end an animal’s suffering. This particular behavior from Mr. Sullivan opens up a pandora’s box of potential questions that could be the subject of a scholarly paper of its own.
D.) Mr. Sullivan’s desire for an animal to die in a charge also suggests he believes that the animal’s right to charge outweighs his client’s right to hunt and harvest their own animals. Because of the frequent intercession by Mr. Sullivan on the hunts providing the killing shot its clear that either he really wants to hunt for himself, or that he desires to induce a charge more than he wants to afford his clients the ability to take the first and the final shot on an animal. Some may find this curious.

Overall, the video was entertaining and illuminating to see what this personality does on his hunts and how he chooses to present his safaris. There is an extreme emphasis on the killing (mostly by him) of the animal, a repetitive mantra that the animal has a right to “choose how he dies” and an emphasis on human/animal parity in that he does not believe it fair to kill an animal unless the animal is in a position to potentially kill Mr. Sullivan or his client... or at least to give that impression albeit Mr. Sullivan always has the tactical upper hand. Many would find this to be a false impression because Mr. Sullivan in fact doesn't give the animal that equal chance or a full suite of rights, but instead sets up the animal for a death in a manner that Mr. Sullivan decides (enticement to charge), not in the animals primary initial desire (evasion and survival).

I think the idiosyncrasies of Mr. Sullivan and his inconsistent views of man and animal’s worth coalesce to make him a larger than life character perceived as a loose cannon with an illogical mind. It makes great reality television. On the other hand, it creates in the minds of some, a troubling hypocrisy as he claims to instill rights in dangerous game animals (right to self determination in death) that he does not instill in them moments earlier (right to self determination to live). It actually seems like he wishes to instill only as many rights in the animal as a cat instills in a mouse caught under paw; the personal pleasure of the dominate party must continue until the dominant party is bored with the situation. (whether housecat or Mr. Sullivan) He claims to want to give the animal equal footing to create an ultimate sense of “fairness” but carries such formidable weaponry (.577NE and .600NE) that it isn’t fair, he is going to obliterate the animal as was seen when he blew the jaw off a cape buffalo at 8’ that was standing in suffering ready to be dispatched calmly at 30’ until incited to charge. Many hunters would have preferred the animal be humanely dispatched with haste so as to keep the human beings in a position of safety and to reduce the animal's suffering but with Mr. Sullivan's hunt in the video neither of those two moral concerns were held to a higher value than getting the wounded buffalo to perform aggressively. I personally did not see the animal being given the choice "of how to die" that Mr. Sullivan speaks of so frequently, I saw a forced stimulus being thrust upon an animal that resulted in an instinctive response to charge as there were no other options remaining.

It is these world-view inconsistencies that jostle between Judeo-Christian, Kant-moralist secular hunter, animal rights activist and what appears to be narcissistic hedonism that surely rubs some people wrong because Mr. Sullivan cannot pick from just one system of values. I personally would have more thoroughly enjoyed the 8 hours of hunting footage that was cut more than the final 15 minutes of his productions.

Death at my feet was produced by Mark Sullivan in 2011 with a run time of 75 minutes. Available for purchase from his website for around $40.00.
 
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AfricaHunting.com

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Here is the trailer of the video Death At My Feet that @rookhawk reviewed above.




death-at-my-feet.jpg
 

Hank2211

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Rookhawk does a really first rate job in analyzing Mark Sullivan, and offers some really interesting perspectives.

For those who are interested in Sullivan's views, Cal Pappas (who I think may be a member of AH) wrote a two part interview for African Hunter magazine last year (They've changed the numbering system, but is should be no. 104 and 105 using the current system). Sullivan speaks for himself, and offers some interesting perspectives on his hunting.

Personally, I'm not a big fan of what I see, but then I've only been charged twice, unintentionally (buffalo and leopard), and neither was an experience I'm looking to repeat any time soon. Having said that, I don't agree that he should have been kicked out of SCI, and I'm prepared to defend his right to hunt as he sees fit, as long as it's legal where he's doing it.
 

vinnymbogo

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As Rookhawk has noted, these animals were already wounded; there was no "choice". Sullivan's only interest is to sell videos and the almighty $. I've yet to meet a PH who had anything good to say about this character.
 

Brent in Az

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Intentionally wounding animals, and provoking charges, for the embellishment of a video, pretty much sums up what Sullivan is all about.

Great white hunter? More like a great white knucklehead!
 

Jfet

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Would I show one of Mark Sullivan's videos in my Outdoor Adventure Class?.... No

Would I show the Hippo Charge from Jim Shockey's 2nd season of Uncharted? ....Yes

What's the difference Jim Shockey is a Gentleman.

I want my students to hunt like Jim Shockey.

In the 1970 move entitled "Waterloo" The Duke of Wellington is talking with his sister about Napoleon and says this, "Napoleon's hat is worth 50,000 men on the battlefield but he is no gentleman"

Mark Sullivan is obviously having success. I applaud him, just as I have applauded Jimmy Johnson for the success he has had as a NFL football coach. However, as I work with young football coaches these days I don't point to Jimmy Johnson there are others that are far better.

Roohawk, thanks for making me ponder even though it may be weak and weary.(y)
 

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On several other occasions Mr. Sullivan shot simultaneously with the clients on the animals.

On this Elephant hunt I cannot see the client so I could be entirely wrong here but it seems, if there is indeed a client, that the hunter's first shot misses completely the Elephant and that Mark Sullivan, who I assume is shooting on the left, is actually the one bringing down the Elephant.

First shot… It looks like dust from the impact of the bullet.
Screen Shot 2016-04-30 at 12.57.51 PM.jpg


Second shot
Screen Shot 2016-04-30 at 12.58.14 PM.jpg
 

Velo Dog

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IMO - Sulluvan is producing and selling snuff films and so, he is part of our public relations debacle.
 

Code4

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I could only watch about 10 minutes of the video when I borrowed it from a friend. The whole idea of 'clients' and PH in sleeveless shirts (In Africa ffs) continuously slapping each other on the back and telling each other how good they are, made me turn it off.

Sullivan appeals to a fair percentage of the hunting population with money to buy access to that kind of 'product'. He clearly has made a lot of money and I read his post on another forum when he got kicked out of SCI (an organisation I have little respect for). Sorry Mark, money can't buy everything.

He will continue to make good money and promote his image. Just not for me.
 

TallGrassHunter

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He may actually be a pretty good back up, but sure wouldn't be my choice. I really thought he would have gotten someone - maybe himself - dead by now.
 

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In several instances during the video Mr. Sullivan deferred or delayed the “coup de grace” on a wounded animal in order........

I have only seen brief portions of his videos and so it is not fair for me to offer an opinion based off my own viewing of his videos. There's a reason I almost immediately turned away from it. I appreciate your lengthy analysis @rookhawk and shows fairness. However, if the small portion I quoted above is normal behavior for Mr. Sullivan, I don't care what the reason for the intentional delay in putting a non-fatally wounded animal down may be, it is without excuse. Further adding to the fire is if he intentionally inflicts non-fatal wounds on animals for such theatrical purposes, it is reprehensible. It is the sort of thing that fuels the anti-hunting crowd and puts all hunters in a bad light.

Again to be fair, those last few statements are based on "if" he did/does what I described. I can't say for certain and I have no intention of paying him to watch his videos.
 

CAustin

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I haven't seen the video but based on what some of you are saying this guy and his videos may well represent a problem for sport hunting.
 

Hank2211

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Let me be very clear: I am not trying to defend the manner in which Mr. Sullivan hunts.

BUT lots of us here are making all sorts of accusations, without proof, and are assuming he is guilty of whatever, again without proof.

If you read the Cal Pappas article, Sullivan says he has never intentionally wounded an animal in order to provoke a charge. He says the client always shoots first (yes, he does back up), and that it's the clients who are generally bad shots who wound the animals. He then follows up quickly, rather than do what he says others do, which is to let the animal stiffen up and die. He claims that is cruel, and a quick follow up - which often results in a charge he can film - is in fact more humane and respectful.

I am just relating this because there is another side to this story. You don't need to buy it, but you need to be aware of it.

And, of course, we have the constant problem of hunters who disapprove of what other hunters do, even if legal, and joining the antis in railing against them.

Lots of things happen that I don't agree with in the world. I will save my attacks for those things which are illegal or which attempt to involve me. Otherwise, I support your right to hunt - legally - as you see fit. Just don't ask me along for the ride.
 

Brent in Az

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Why is it that Sullivan is always the one shown finishing off the animal.? Why does Sullivan always doubletap his clients shots? What type of clients is Sullivan taking on these filmed hunts? Are they just stand ins for a scripted hunt? As I have mentioned before, any PH that doubletaps my shot is going to pay the trophy fee. Maybe his hunters are hopelessly inept.?

The video is not titled "Death at my clients feet"

What Sullivan is doing may not be illegal, but it is highly questionable. Seems to be staged Bravado, and chest puffing, by one of the goldenball brigade.

Sullivan may claim he hasn't intentionally wounded animals to charge, but I remember a scene in one of the videos, that seems to contradict his claim. But I wasn't there, so what do I know.?

I am not a big fan of SCI, and their tactics, but Sullivan raised the hackles of enough people to get the boot. Tarnishing an already questionable reputation.
 

Lrntolive

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Let me be very clear: I am not trying to defend the manner in which Mr. Sullivan hunts.

BUT lots of us here are making all sorts of accusations, without proof, and are assuming he is guilty of whatever, again without proof.

If you read the Cal Pappas article, Sullivan says he has never intentionally wounded an animal in order to provoke a charge. He says the client always shoots first (yes, he does back up), and that it's the clients who are generally bad shots who wound the animals. He then follows up quickly, rather than do what he says others do, which is to let the animal stiffen up and die. He claims that is cruel, and a quick follow up - which often results in a charge he can film - is in fact more humane and respectful.

I am just relating this because there is another side to this story. You don't need to buy it, but you need to be aware of it.

And, of course, we have the constant problem of hunters who disapprove of what other hunters do, even if legal, and joining the antis in railing against them.

Lots of things happen that I don't agree with in the world. I will save my attacks for those things which are illegal or which attempt to involve me. Otherwise, I support your right to hunt - legally - as you see fit. Just don't ask me along for the ride.
@Hank2211 I completely agree. This is the same kind of divisiveness that goes on between trappers and conventional equipment hunters in many parts of the US. We're all in the same boat.

As for the videos, they're videos being sold to make $. We all need to understand that. Sensationalism is a trait of Hollywood, lest we forget, and any videos made to be sold (or free for that matter) tend to be exaggerated. If you like the video, great! If not, turn it off or don't buy anymore. It's the anti's that rail on about it without putting their money into conservation. Hunters are the opposite. We put our money where it belongs and withhold it from where it doesn't.

Just my 2 cents.
 

vinnymbogo

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My question: Why does Sullivan avoid an easy "coup de grace" at a stationary target; he warns everybody not to shoot, until he can be the "Video Hero" after FORCING the charge by advancing?
 

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Again to be fair, those last few statements are based on "if" he did/does what I described. I can't say for certain and I have no intention of paying him to watch his videos.

I'm quoting my own post in an effort to be clear. My original post in this thread was in response to the OP's and to one specific portion of what he observed, not myself.

My short viewing of a portion of one of Mr. Sullivan's videos can hardly be enough to make any accusations. In that moment of watching, I quickly determined that Mr. Sullivan is not exactly what I considered to be my kind of guy to hang around with in hunting camp or to go hunting with. That fact is hardly a reason to raise accusation and amounts to a reason not to buy his videos or pay my money to go hunting with him and that's about as far as it goes with me and my thoughts on Mark Sullivan.

That said I'll stand by my standard that one should never purposely inflict a non-fatal wound on an animal. If we do wound an animal due to a poor shot, we owe it to the animal and ourselves as hunters to quickly finish what WE started. To not do so is inhumane and only adds ammunition to the anti-hunters arsenal that we're all a bunch of sadistic bastards.
 

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"Don't shoot!"

"Don't shoot!"

"Shoot!" "Bang"

Client doesn't have a chance to shoot between the time Sullivan says shoot and the time Sullivan shoots. If the client shoots before Sullivan does, the client is criticized for not being sporting, in a couple of clips I have seen. Would you want that on your hunt?
 

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