Pen Farthing and ... aw look it's a doggie!
Farthing served in Afghanistan in the mid Noughties. He later set up the Nowzad animal shelter and had been trying to get his animals - rescue animals - out of Kabul, along with his staff. And then the arguments began: why should dogs take up space on flights out of Kabul while there were still thousands of people with good reason to flee the Taliban, and who had the paperwork, languishing on the tarmac, or stuck in the city?
As the BBC has reported, “Since the collapse of the Afghan government, Mr Farthing and his supporters have campaigned to have his staff, their families and 140 dogs and 60 cats evacuated from the country in a plan he has named Operation Ark … But Defence Secretary Ben Wallace has complained some of Mr Farthing's supporters had ‘taken up too much time of my senior commanders dealing with this issue when they should be focused on dealing with the humanitarian crisis’”. Dogs and cats, or humans?
All those migrant hating but dog loving voters were getting restive: “Mr Wallace said his advisors and officials had received abusive calls”. But he went from “Fundamentally, as we have seen on the media, there are desperate, desperate people, and I was not prepared to push those people out of the way for that” to the MoD now advising that “[Farthing and his animals] are currently being supported while he awaits transportation”.
Ominously, the BBC report adds “The MoD announcement did not mention the situation surrounding Mr Farthing's staff”. Kate Higgins, who’s a veterinarian, was concerned. “This is great news but includes no word on [Farthing]’s team and their families - including female vets and nurses, children and babies who will be deemed to have assisted the UK and whose lives will be in danger under Taliban rule”. There was more.
Krishnan Guru-Murthy of Channel 4 News asked “The dogs and cats (not pets but rescues) allowed through to Britain but not the Afghan staff?” Amelia Gentleman of the Guardian noted that Farthing and his animals were being allowed through “But British embassy guards employed by GardaWorld are not”. And it got worse.
Deborah Haynes from Sky News mused “Pets safe. But a former Afghan interpreter with [the British Army], who spent the past 5 days outside Kabul airport with his wife, 3-month-old daughter & 3-yr-old son, is not. Asked how he was feeling, he said: ‘Fearful and lost, like a prisoner waiting for his assassination’”. There are desperate people out there.
The chief decision maker won't be making any
Charlie Herbert was one of them. “You put his dogs and cats above the ten Afghan families that I’ve been trying to get into the EHC for the last 72 hours. You utter bastards. I will never forgive you”. OK, the dogs and cats may be able to fly as cargo, but the resources dedicated to getting Farthing and his pets out could mean some actual humans don’t.
Of course, knowing that the US were going to leave by the end of the month, the UK Government could have acted earlier. But the Tory shambles is a hard habit to break.
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