|Nowzad reports partial rescue success
Pen Farthing, the founder of Kabul based animal rescue centre Nowzad, has arrived back in the UK from stricken Afghanistan, along with 170 animals. The situation had evolved over the last week alongside the general evacuation and had become a major news item.
In the end, Pen managed to get out of the country with 100 dogs and 70 cats, but was unable to get the staff of his rescue centre out of the country at this time.
On landing at Heathrow, he tweeted, â€˜Arrived Heathrow with partial success of #OpArk Mixed emotions & true â€˜deep feeling of sadness for Afghan today.â€™ He said he felt, â€˜no joy, just guilt,â€™ at leaving his staff behind. He also added that he believed that one dog was allegedly stabbed by the Taliban when they drove through a checkpoint.
Operation Ark was the name the ex-Royal Marine had given to his campaign to get the animals and staff out of Afghanistan after the Taliban had swiftly taken over the country.
The Ministry of Defence (MOD) apparently created anger amongst Mr Farthingâ€™s supporters when they tweeted, â€˜Pen Farthing and his pets were assisted through the system at Kabul airport by the UK Armed Forces. They are currently being supported while he awaits transportation.â€™
They felt that the use of the word â€˜petsâ€™ was patronising and derogatory towards these rescue dogs, some of whom are animal service dogs who have served time in Afghanistan.
The Times and other media have reported on an alleged leaked message from Mr Farthing saying that he would â€˜destroyâ€™ a government advisor, if they did not arrange for the animals to leave Afghanistan.
The former Royal Marine, who founded an animal charity in the country, became embroiled in an increasingly bitter row with Ben Wallace after he became the last British civilian to leave Kabul, along with a number of dogs and cats. Mr Farthing, 52, apparently left the airport with the animals from his sanctuary on a private charter flight, sponsored by the Ministry of Defence, at around 4.30pm on Saturday.
Ben Wallace, the Secretary of State for Defence, confirmed that his staff have faced abuse from the supporters of Mr Farthing, as tensions have understandably run high amongst animal lovers amidst the growing crisis.
He hit out at the, â€˜bullying, falsehoods and threatening behaviour,â€™ of those who were supporting Mr Farthingâ€™s efforts to get the animals out of Afghanistan.
It has been reported that the Prime Ministerâ€™s wife, Carrie Johnson, lobbied in favour of Mr Farthing, although this has been denied by Downing Street.
Peter Egan, a supporter of Mr Farthing, tweeted, â€˜Pen has gone to hell & back during these last few weeks because he prioritises both people & animals before himself. Heâ€™s a hero.â€™
Neil Parish MP, chair of the Environment, Food, and Rural Affairs (EFRA) committee tweeted, â€˜I am relieved to hear @PenFarthing and his animals have begun their journey home. My team and I have been working hard to secure their safe evacuation from Kabul, since the onset of the crisis.
â€˜I have received regular updates from @Nowzad, a Tiverton based charity, and have put their message to the heart of Government. My thanks to the PM and the cross-departmental team for making this possible.
â€˜I will continue to lend my support to the charity and Penâ€™s extraordinarily resilient team as they seek a secure route out of Afghanistan.â€™
Nowzad said in a statement, â€˜We are relieved to confirm that Pen and the Nowzad animals left Afghanistan this afternoon and are now safe.
â€˜However, we still have much to do as our wonderful team in Kabul were not allowed through the final barrier. It was a devastating blow to us. We are now working extremely hard to get them evacuated and will not rest until they too are safe.
â€˜Our thoughts for now are with our staff and the many people and animals who have also been left behind. We will do our utmost to help them.
â€˜The last few days have been extremely difficult and hazardous for Pen and the Nowzad team and we very much appreciate your patience and messages of support as we have strived to get them to safety. We know that Pen will update you as soon as he is able.
â€˜For now, thank you so much for the incredible support you have shown the whole Nowzad team. It has given our staff the strength to cope with this desperate situation.â€™
Dr Iain McGill, a vet who works for Nowzad, told the BBC, â€˜The animals, considering what theyâ€™ve been through, are in very good shape on the whole.â€™