Amid the dramatic news in recent years about the rise to power of the Taliban in Afghanistan and the urgent evacuation by the Western powers, one story caught the eye: that of the former British marine Paul Farthing, known as Pen, who refused to be taken out of the country if it meant abandoning the animals he was assisting in the shelter he founded. Finally, this Sunday Farthing landed at London Heathrow Airport aboard a privately chartered plane and not a military flight. However, the 24 workers from Nowzad, the name of the charity, and their families, were left behind, because the Taliban did not let them pass to the airfield even though they had permission from the Boris Johnson government.
In a post on his Twitter account, the former military man said he had “mixed feelings” for what he described as a “partial success” of the one he called ‘Operation Ark‘, and expressed his “deep sadness” for the situation of the population of the country that gave him shelter. In addition, he took the opportunity to praise “the compassion” that the airport staff is showing to the refugees. Speaking to the newspaper ‘The Sun’, he stated that it was “depressing” to leave his collaborators. “Some came with me to the airport, but they were not allowed to cross the line between the Taliban and British control. There were many tears when we said goodbye. I feel very sad for them, “he said, but” I feel relieved for myself and happy for the animals.
Animals will be quarantined for four months, while Farthing will have to spend ten days in a hotel, like the rest of the evacuees from the Asian country. Dr Iain McGill, a veterinarian at the shelter, told the BBC that “considering what they have been through, the animals are generally in very good condition.” Many people have already volunteered to adopt them, nothing unusual in a country where the population has a true devotion to their pets.
Farthing’s campaign generated significant controversy in the country, with thousands of people supporting his work, but also strong criticism, including those of Defense Minister Ben Wallace, who accused the ex-soldier of hinder evacuation work by forcing officials to invest much of their time in managing the exit of dogs and cats, as well as helping to carry the kilos of food they needed for the trip. Apparently, the minister would have blurted out that he was not going to “prioritize animals over people” and that his commanders should “focus on the humanitarian crisis.” Also very critical was the chairman of the Parliament’s Foreign Affairs Select Committee, the deputy Tom Tugendhat, who was a soldier, and who explained to the BBC that in the midst of the difficulties to get people to get to the airport, they had to use “Many troops” for the animal evacuation operation, “while my interpreter’s family will probably be killed,” he declared. “As an interpreter asked me a few days ago ‘why is my five-year-old son worth less than a dog?'” He said.