Afghanistan: Pen Farthing and animals 'safe' after leaving Kabul

By: News Desk      Published: 06:54 PM, 29 Aug, 2021
Afghanistan: Pen Farthing and animals 'safe' after leaving Kabul
Former Royal Marine Pen Farthing set up the Nowzad animal shelter after serving in Afghanistan in the mid-2000s.

The founder of an animal shelter in Afghanistan is "safe" after leaving the country, his charity has said, the British Broadcasting Corporation reported on Sunday.

Paul "Pen" Farthing was attempting to get his staff and rescue animals out of Kabul when they became caught up in Thursday's airport bomb blasts.

Mr Farthing's charity Nowzad confirmed he and his animals left the country on Saturday without his staff. Dr Iain McGill, the vet in the team, confirmed Mr Farthing's plane arrived at Heathrow Airport on Sunday morning.

He was on the plane back with Mr Farthing, which made a stop-off in another country before returning to the UK, and said there were also between 90 to 100 dogs and 60 to 70 cats on the flight.

"The animals, considering what they've been through, are in very good shape on the whole," Dr McGill told the BBC. He said they had been checked and had gone to quarantine kennels, adding: "As you can imagine they're not short of homes for these animals."

Of Mr Farthing himself, Dr McGill said: "Pen is a remarkable man and he is doing fine. "He managed to get some sleep on the plane, which is the first time he's probably slept for a while. He's remarkably chipper and obviously glad to be back on UK soil."

The Nowzad charity said on social media that it was a "devastating blow" that their "wonderful team" had been left behind. Mr Farthing, a former Royal Marine who is originally from Dovercourt in Essex, set up the Nowzad animal shelter in Kabul, rescuing dogs, cats and donkeys, after serving in Afghanistan in the mid-2000s.

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 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".

Dominic Dyer said on Twitter his friend Mr Farthing was now a "national hero, of huge public standing". "He is one of the most courageous, dedicated people I've ever met and it's been an absolute privilege to work alongside others campaigning and fighting for him every step of the way."

But speaking to LBC on Saturday, Foreign Affairs Select Committee chair Tom Tugendhat said: "The difficulty is getting people into and out of the airport and we've just used a lot of troops to bring in 200 dogs, meanwhile my interpreter's family are likely to be killed.

"As one interpreter asked me a few days ago 'why is my five-year-old worth less than your dog?'," the Conservative MP added. On Friday, the MoD said Mr Farthing and his animals were assisted by the UK Armed Forces through Kabul airport.

Confirming the news Mr Farthing and the animals had left Afghanistan, the Nowzad charity said: "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." But it said their "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".

The final British flight left Afghanistan on Saturday, bringing to an end the UK's 20-year military involvement in the country. More than 15,000 people have been evacuated by the UK since 14 August.

–Courtesy BBC