The slogan of Buckfast tonic wine, made by Benedictine monks of Buckfast Abbey in Devon, UK, once read, “Three small glasses a day, for good health and lively blood.” Now, as the culture of consumption continues to grow out of control among the British youth, the brand has received a new unofficial slogan: “Buckfast, made by monks for drunks.”
This rather crude name (really one of many that also includes nicknames like “commotion lotion”) entails a variety of things. Buckfast, selling at a mere £5.49, could be likened to many of the less expensive brands of wine on the market here in America that, due to having a fruity taste and higher alcohol content than beer and malt beverages can provide, become popular among inexperienced younger drinkers. However, there is concern growing among experts who, upon analyzing statistics that pertain to alcohol-related violence and criminal activity, have noticed a startling consistency that links to Buckfast consumption.
The British Daily Mail reports that “research at Polmont offenders’ institution in West Lothian reveals that more than 40 per cent of those who had consumed alcohol immediately before committing their crime had been drinking Buckfast.” The report continues, “But sales of the drink… have soared to £37 million in the past five years, with Scots spending more than £50,000 a day on it.”
Accepted at face value, the information presented in this study seems to make an obvious association between the consumption of the Buckfast brand and crimes being committed. However, why are other important factors involved, namely the age groups of those committing the crimes, not included as well? The fault in this argument becomes far more apparent once we delve deeper into the cultural factors which, as is so often the case, aren’t being well represented.
Particularly in Scotland, Buckfast consumption is commonly associated with what is called “Ned” culture. A Ned (or “Nedette” in the feminine) entails a young adolescent of the lower working class, frequently involved with petty criminal activity, as well as “loutish behaviour, fighting, underage drinking and smoking or general anti-social behaviour.” Wikipedia also asserts that “they are often assumed to be unemployed,” hence the moderately-priced Buckfast becomes a favored beverage.
Since “Neds” are often associated with gang activity and violence in urban and countryside areas, Scotland’s “knife culture” has come into question in the past, where young gang members have been known to stab people as a way to “prove themselves” to their prospective gang (in Scotland, this act is called “chibbing”). No doubt, this kind of unruly behavior, as well as the low-income associated with members of this working class, make it easy to see why Buckfast tonic wine is so often associated with violent activities. At their website, the Daily Mail ended their article by saying “It seems some just can’t resist the lure of a bottle of Buckie,” but in reality, perhaps they could… if only there were more cost-effective alternatives to this brand. Quite simply, Buckfast is among the cheapest wines available, and with an ABV of 16%, the buzz it produces allows the best “bang for the buck,” or in this case perhaps, “pow for the pound.”
It seems wrong to try and draw parallels between consumption of a particular brand this way, with the apparent insinuation that it might be to blame for the rowdy activity and behavior of certain individuals, without first looking at similar statistics that pertain to the age groups involved in the crimes being committed in the vicinity. Therefore, the association here, correctly stated, should be one between lower-income and poverty-level adolescents, alcohol consumption, and crime; hence, the social problem that should be of greatest concern is more clearly identified. Buckfast on the other hand, as could be reasoned by virtue of its pricing, is merely the most accessible spirit to these individuals, and hence it is no more likely to contribute to violent crime than any other form of alcohol unless placed into the same circumstances.
Whether it be a gun, a baseball bat, a car, a pencil or anything else that might be used as a weapon for purposes of ill intent, alcohol is no more a weapon in and of itself than anything else; it is the intention of the individual who misuses it that should be our greatest concern.