Strip 'violent wine' monks of charity status, say secularists

By Jonathan Morris
BBC News Online

image captionThe Devon-made drink Buckfast , or Bucky as it is known locally, is well known on the streets of Scotland

Monks who make Buckfast tonic wine linked to violent crime in Scotland should be stripped of charitable status, say campaigners.

The National Secular Society says the beverage made at Buckfast Abbey in Devon is harmful.

Buckfast Abbey Trust does not pay tax on the income because it is a charity, which the society claims is an "abuse of the charitable system".

The trust said it was surprised at the complaint.

The society has called on the Charity Commission to remove the abbey trust's charitable status "unless they change their activities".

image captionThe drink has been made by the Benedictine monks of Buckfast Abbey in Devon since the 1920s and a new winery was built in 2011

Buckfast wine

  • In the 1920s Benedictine brothers developed tonic wine sold from the abbey
  • The base wine was first imported from Spain, and nowadays from France
  • Ingredients include red wine, phosphates, caffeine and vanillin
  • In 1927, distribution and sales were passed to J Chandler in Andover, Hampshire
  • In 2011, a new winery was completed at the abbey. The site has four vats, each holding 130,000 litres of wine

Its vice president Alistair McBay said: "The monks should be setting an example as a religious organisation but the opposite is happening."

"The question needs to be asked 'Are they serving God or Mamon?"

It has made about £88m since 2004 from royalties made on each bottle of Buckfast sold, according to the Charity Commission.

The trust justifies its existence as a charity in its annual report, stating its aim is the "advancement of the Roman Catholic religion".

image copyrightPA
image captionBuckfast Tonic Wine has been made by Benedictine monks at Buckfast Abbey in Devon for almost 100 years and is particularly popular in Scotland and Northern Ireland

In a statement, it said it would contact the Charity Commission.

In 2007, the Scottish Prison Service found 43.4% of inmates had consumed Buckfast before their last offence, despite it accounting for less than 1% of total alcohol sales nationally.

The Charity Commission said it took "all complaints about registered charities seriously" and it would be contacting Buckfast Abbey Trust "to seek further information about concerns raised about the governance of the charity and to determine whether there is a regulatory role for the commission".

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