Tortoise Trust boycotts Sweden

From ANIMAL PEOPLE, November 1996:

LONDON––The London-based
Tortoise Trust on October 27 called for a global
boycott of Swedish goods, seeking to force the
resignation of Swedish agriculture officials
Annika Ahnberg and Karin Cerenius over the
treatment of 1,000 Horsfield’s tortoises, who
were seized 10 days earlier from Syrian citizen
Amro Hassan at Arlanda Airport in Stockholm
because he had no import permit. The tortoises
were allegedly held for a week without heat,
food, or drinking water, then frozen to death
because they were said to be too sick to live.
“Neither the Swedish Herpetological
Society nor other reptile consultants in Sweden
were advised of the seizure or asked how to handle
the tortoises,” Tortoise Trust spokespersons
Andy Highfield and Jill Martin objected.

Tipped off about the situation on
October 23 by Ralph Tramontano, editor of the
National Swedish Herpetological Society journal
Snoken, Highfield and Martin said, “We faxed
to the Swedish Embassy in Britain offering to
meet the full costs of sending the tortoises back
to Tadzjikstan. We are advised by the Swedish
Embassy that this offer was forwarded within 60
minutes to the Minister of Agriculture in
Sweden. World Wildlife Fund Sweden supported
our call to save the tortoises,” but as international
pressure built, Highfield and Martin
charged, “Operatives of the Ministry of
Agriculture worked all through the night to
slaughter them, to avoid the storm of protest. It
now seems,” they continued, “that Ministry of
Agriculture veterinarians Karin Cerenius and
Ernst Mehnert were determined from the beginning
to kill the tortoises as an example to other
potential importers.”
Also opposing the Turtle Trust and
WWF-Sweden was John L. Behler, chair of the
International Union for the Conservation of
Nature tortoise and freshwater turtle specialist
group and head of the Wildlife Conservation
Society herpetology department, who stated,
“Repatriation must not be undertaken,” because
of the possibility of transmitting disease
acquired in transit to the scarce wild population.
“We’ve been down this exact road before,”
Behler continued, “and there can be no flexibility
in liberation affairs in the face of all the

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