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The Gentleman’s Vinnie Jones: it’s all an act for this keen shooter

Netflix’s The Gentlemen is currently ranking in the streaming service’s Top 10 most-watched TV shows. Footballer-turned-actor Vinnie Jones has a starring role as an animal-loving gamekeeper of a wealthy 15,000 acre estate. But in real life, Jones is infamous for killing wildlife. Crows, pigeons, rabbits, foxes, boar: you name them, Jones has shot them all. And he’s bragged about it too.

In Guy Ritchie’s latest show, Jones plays Geoffrey Seacombe, who lives in a cottage on the estate. He shares his home with various animals that he has nursed back to health after being wounded. In episode one, Seacombe points to a Barn Owl on his mantelpiece, and says, “Charlie got hit by a car”, and pointing to a crow he says, “Sarah Jane flew into a window.” The camera then pans to a fox in the living room, and another character asks Seacombe, “Aren’t you employed to cull foxes?”

A bird killer at five years old

The scene depicts Jones’ character as a man who cares deeply about foxes; who would rather share his home with them than kill them. But the irony isn’t lost on those of us who do our best to protect wildlife. Because outside of acting, Jones has previously stated that his perfect day would be “to get up early, get the hide out, shoot pigeons all day, bagging 200, then go lamping all night and get half-a-dozen foxes.”

Tory-supporting Jones was brought up by a gamekeeper father, who ran a shoot for 35 years. So perhaps it is no surprise that a lust for shooting and hunting was passed down to him. Jones has said that if he hadn’t become a successful footballer, he, too, would have become a gamekeeper – indeed, when he was 16 he spent a year in the role.

Back in 2017 he told Shooting UK about his childhood in rural Hertfordshire:

“My sister and I would go beating [‘beating’ is when a group of people flush out birds such as pheasants towards guns, by making noise, or by beating sticks]. I shot my first pigeon there when I was five years old, sitting with my father in the pigeon hide among the decoys. I saved up 
my beating money and bought my gun — a Baikal over-and-under, non-ejector, double trigger. It cost me £169. It was delivered on the Saturday morning and we were going vermin shooting — my first two shots with 
it was a right-and-left at foxes.”

The man who was taught to kill birds when he was five then grew up to teach children to inflict similar cruelty on animals. He told the shooting magazine:

“Last January I took a young lad of 14 out ferreting. I hadn’t been ferreting in years, but it was my passion when I was that age. This lad had been out once and had one rabbit. So we did it all properly. We put the nets down and I showed him how to do it — we didn’t even dig one hole. We had 
16 rabbits in a morning. When I was growing up we’d get 30 to 40 rabbits in a day, but those days are gone.”

He went on to say:

“I love pigeon shooting — building the hide, putting the decoys out. It’s the same with rook and crow shooting.”

This is the same man who, in The Gentlemen, is depicted as what The Telegraph describes as “a humble, spiritual, solitary gamekeeper”; a man who nurses an injured crow back to health after she flies into a window. It is, of course, unfathomable how both the show’s director Guy Ritchie and The Telegraph believe that such gamekeepers exist. After all, in real life they are responsible for the poisoning of birds of prey, as well as the slow death of mammals through snaring, the culling of deer, the rearing of ‘game’ birds for the gun, and the burning of moorland for grouse shooting.

Fox killer

Over the years, Jones has made no secret of his love of killing foxes – again ironic, as his Gentlemen character lovingly shares a home with a fox. In 2002, the actor joined masses of pro-hunting protesters to demonstrate against Labour’s impending Hunting Act legislation, which (kind of) made fox hunting illegal.

The actor previously bragged about his exploits killing foxes, saying:

Lamping is probably my favourite. I’ve spent a lot of money on customising my Land Rover for lamping. If the farmer has a fox problem I love going out and dealing with it for him.”

In 2017, Jones caused nationwide uproar after he apparently tweeted a photo of 100 murdered foxes. The caption that went with the photo said:

“a real night lamping foxes – anyone beat this???”

Jones went on to deny the tweet, saying that his account had been hacked, and that he had nothing to do with callous their slaughter.

 

PR spin

Like all hunters and shooters in the UK, Jones is adept at reciting their usual PR rhetoric: that they love to shoot and kill animals to preserve the ‘rural way of life’, and for the ‘conservation’ of our endangered species. Of course, the release of The Gentlemen means media interviews, and the perfect opportunity for Jones to spin murder as conservation. On 5 March, GQ published its puff piece on him, saying:

“This Vinnie Jones wants to talk about nature conservation. Wildlife. Birds. He has a flock of 50 goldfinches nesting in his hedgerows; house sparrows pop in and out from under the eaves of his old buildings. His plan is to get kingfishers to nest in the banks of his three lakes.”

The GQ journalist makes no mention of the many, many videos and photos of Jones slaughtering wildlife that the actor himself has put in the public domain, not to mention the countless interviews he has given about his passion for killing mammals and birds.

Some months before this, The Guardian ran a similar piece on Jones, timed with the release of his TV series, Vinnie Jones: In the Country. The newspaper used the word “conservationist” and wrote, without irony, about the bird killer:

“A few moments into his new series Vinnie Jones: In the Country, we’re presented with the startling image of Jones standing in the middle of a bluebell-flanked copse, identifying birdsong. “It’s wonderful,” he whispers in an awestruck hush.”

Jones uses social media to attempt to portray himself as a man who cares about wildlife – a conservationist – and sees no contradiction in trying to carve out this image while publishing gun-wielding posts.

Guy Ritchie

The way in which The Gentleman depicts ‘gamekeeping’ and paints such a positive picture of shooting isn’t solely down to Vinnie Jones the actor of course. That would be courtesy of show creator and director (of the first two episodes anyway) Guy Ritchie.

Ritchie is well-known as a shooter (or ‘world famous shooter’ as the celebrity media likes to term it). He runs the huge Ashcombe estate in Wiltshire which is used by a coterie of his ‘famous’ friends: people like former footballer David Beckham, actor Brad Pitt – and of course Vinnie Jones who Ritchie reportedly introduced to the joys of blasting birds out of the air.

Having adopted the outdated attitudes of the ‘country squire’ and spending an inordinate amount of his leisure time armed and slaughtering wildlife, it’s really no surprise that Ritchie is keen to have us believe that ‘gamekeepers’ like Seaccombe are ‘wildlife-friendly’ rather than document the facts that in real life they are responsible for the rearing of millions of birds for the gun, the illegal poisoning of birds of prey, the slow death of mammals through snaring and trapping, the culling of deer, and the burning of moorland for grouse shooting.

 

Badgers know best

When Jones published a video of himself in his living room, cuddling a badger he named Brock, a number of fans gushed at how cute the scene was. Brock, on the other hand, knew differently, biting him, and struggling to get off his lap.

Like Brock, we, too, will not be fooled by Jones, no matter how many times he uses the hashtag #conservation on his Insta posts. Shame on him. And shame on the mainstream media for allowing this bird-shooting, gun-wielding ‘sportsman’ to pose as someone who cares about the UK’s wildlife.