“Infamy, infamy!” wailed Kenneth Williams as Julius Caesar in Carry on Cleo. “They’ve all got it in for me.”

Being associated with the timber trade recently, you can understand how he felt. Once more it has been singled out as an environmental vandal, this time by the WWF in its Failing the Forests report. The added aggravation is that the full document, on Europe’s “culpability” in deforestation in various parts of the world, was preceded by a summary distilling the more contentious content. Adding insult to injury, this was misreported in the press, creating the impression that the timber trade is bent on little short of total tree extermination.

The Daily Telegraph got it most wrong. It claimed that the UK alone was importing £2bn a year of illegal timber from Russia, the Baltics, the Congo and Amazon Basins, east Africa and Indonesia. The WWF report actually attributed that figure to the EU as a whole. The illegal timber total alleged for the UK from these sources should have read around £200m (or around £3.30 per capita).

Many in the trade do not believe the WWF’s figures tally in any event, but the newspapers’ mistakes have exacerbated the situation. Once more the sector has been vilified as the main culprit in deforestation and curbs on timber trading have been put forward as pat solutions to the problem.

We know not everyone involved in timber is a saint but, as a whole, the UK industry is putting major efforts into improving its environmental performance and that of its overseas suppliers – as was highlighted by the list of initiatives reeled off at the TTF‘s conference on trade with China.

The trouble is that the greens are locked onto timber as one of their biggest campaigning issues, due to the headline-grabbing potential. This has helped make any form of logging a trite media shorthand for environmental degradation. Some suspect the environmentalist groups don’t care about that. The WWF could, of course, prove them wrong by picking up the phone to The Daily Telegraph and pointing out that the paper got their alleged level of illegal timber coming into the UK wrong by at least a factor of 10. I wonder if they will.