Not Another Statistic!

Don’tcha just love statistics! Here’s a beauty today from the BBC:

“Vegetarian and vegan: A quarter of UK dinners have no meat or fish”

More than a quarter of all evening meals in the UK are vegan or vegetarian, research shows.

In the 12 weeks to the end of January, 29% of them contained no meat or fish, according to Kantar Worldpanel.

Trends like Veganuary (going vegan for January) and “sustained interest” in meat-free diets are affecting habits, the market researcher said. [1]

Okay, so if a quarter of all evening meals are now meat-less and fish-less that must mean a massive drop in meat and fish sales. Except, further down the same report the BBC tells us:

[…] the Agriculture & Horticulture Development Board (AHDB) says in the short term, meat sales are increasing.

In another report, Kantar’s analysis shows that 0.9% more meat and poultry and 2.9% more processed meat and poultry (like bacon and sausages) was bought over the 2017 festive period than the previous Christmas.

While the AHDB – funded by farmers and growers – recognises the growth of flexitarians – who are reducing their meat consumption overall – it says most people are still enjoying meat dishes at the weekend or replacing red meat with fish or chicken.

In the long term, it said, meat-eating has slowed, but just 0.2% of meat and fish buyers stopped doing so last year.

Nearly one third of the UK population is eating no meat for dinner, according to Kantar Worldpanel, yet only 0.2% has gone vegetarian, and meat sales are increasing?

It begs the question: what is Kantar Worldpanel?

Kantar Worldpanel is part of WPP. WPP began life in 1971 as ‘Wire and Plastic Products, plc’, making baskets and trolleys for supermarkets. It didn’t last long. In 1985 control of the company passed to ex-Saatchi and Saatchi executive, Martin Sorrell, who ran the firm into the ground and resurrected it as a holding company, renamed WPP.

A year later, Sorrell took control of Picquotware, a manufacturer of metal teapots and pans. In 2004 the company was wound up and WPP sold off all the assets. That was just the beginning. Company acquisition after company acquisition rapidly followed, and in 2000 WPP ‘acquired’ the U.S.-based advertising company Young & Rubicam for $5.7 billion, making it one of the biggest advertising agencies on the planet.

Advertising isn’t WPP’s only expertise. Tax avoidance comes high on the list. In 2009 the Guardian ran a report detailing how WPP was duping the British taxpayer out of millions of pounds, despite the efforts of the U.K. government to thwart it.

[…] critics say WPP has also spent the past decade successfully running a series of elaborate avoidance schemes, involving billions in assets held in low-tax regimes in Luxembourg, Ireland and the Netherlands. Overseas company filings show that over the years, in response to the UK revenue blocking a loophole, WPP appears to have ingeniously reorganised itself with even more hard-to-grasp spiders’ webs of legal entities.

We calculate that there could be a notional “tax gap” of some £100m between the UK tax charge declared by WPP over the last six years and a commonsense view of the total amount one might expect such a company to pay in proportion to its UK presence.

WPP itself estimates, for example, that 15% of its profits come from the UK. On this basis, one might expect it to have paid a total of around £126m. In fact, the company paid only £27m. It would take the average income tax paid in a year by 20,000 individual households to fill up such a tax gap.[2]

Which could go some way to explaining why British householders are finding it difficult to afford meat.


[1] “Vegetarian and vegan: A quarter of UK dinners have no meat or fish” BBC, January 7th 2018

[2] “Seeing double: Avoidance scheme allegedly used by UK ads agency” Guardian, February 4th 2009

2 Replies to “Not Another Statistic!”

  1. It has to be said:
    “There are three types of lies — lies, damn lies, and statistics.”
    ? Benjamin Disraeli

    Where did they get their information? Did researchers go around inspecting the plates of dinner-eating Brits? Or was it a telephone enquiry thingie, or a form to fill in dropped through assorted letter boxes? Of course people are going to tell you what they think you want to hear. They probably know that the environment will suffer less if less meat is eaten, so think they are telling you the right thing – even when they’ve been chomping on pork chops, beef stew and steak and kidney pie all week long. Did they enjoy a nice veggie burger on that survey night – course they did, they said.

  2. Twilight – I guess they use online data for their info. WPP has huge data collection facilities. I doubt it makes their stats anymore accurate than going door-to-door with a questionnaire. We’re ruled by stats these days. Even medical advice is based on them, and that changes like the wind. One day it’s good to drink wine, the next alcohol is a deadly poison and will kill us all. Okay, so I’ll die happy. 😉

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