Pen Farthing: Radio guests clash over ‘pets vs people’
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The ex-Royal Marine’s campaign to get workers and animals from the Nowzad shelter out of Afghanistan has caused controversy in recent days after receiving a huge amount of public support. Although visas were granted for his 24 staff and their dependents, Mr Farthing refused to leave without his pets and aimed to get 200 dogs and cats out of the country. On Friday, the Ministry of Defence (MoD) announced that the ex-marine and his animals were at Kabul airport and clearance for their charter flight had been sponsored by the UK Government.
He landed safely in London Heathrow this weekend and is reported to be now on a connecting flight to Norway to visit his wife Kaisa Markhus.
This means the cats and dogs that he travelled with from Kabul will now most likely have to quarantine under UK law.
But they could be at risk of being put down if they are found to have any diseases during their quarantine.
A Whitehall source told The Sunday Times this situation would be like Geronimo the alpaca “on speed”, whose owner Helen Macdonald recently lost a high court ruling he should be put down after testing positive for Bovine TB twice.
The Times newspaper also said it had a leaked audio recording of Mr Farthing berating Peter Quentin, a special adviser to defence secretary Ben Wallace, who he accused of “blocking” efforts to arrange a flight.
Mr Wallace previously complained his plight was distracting those focusing on evacuating the most vulnerable.
Mr Wallace also said MoD staff had faced abuse from Mr Farthing’s supporters.
Mr Farthing’s friend and supporter Dominic Dyer said: “Peter Quentin is a political adviser working in the shadows of the MoD under the command of Ben Wallace.
“I believe he was instrumental in seeking to undermine support for Operation Ark across Whitehall despite this being a privately funded humanitarian mission with huge public and political support.
“Pen Farthing who was risking his life in Kabul to get his people and animals to Britain was completely justified in holding Mr Quentin to account for his actions and I think it’s time Ben Wallace came clean on how this rogue advisor attempted to delay flight authorisation for operation arc into Kabul.”
The Ministry of Defence has not issued a statement.
Mr Farthing previously shared his fears over his pets potentially baking to death in their travel crates if they were left in limbo much longer.
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While trying to get back to the UK, he made a midnight journey to the airport in convoy with his team after receiving notice from Mr Wallace that they could get a private charter plane.
But they almost didn’t even make it to the airport after being stopped at a Taliban checkpoint.
Mr Farthing told The Sun: “About 15 guys jumped out and levelled their guns at us.
“Then one of them had an ND [a negligent discharge]. Luckily he was a s*** shot and it went over our heads.
“I very rarely hear Afghans swear in English but I heard a few words then.
“We’ve got hours now before animals start dying.
“There are some in the middle we can’t reach and we can’t start unloading them because it will attract too much attention.
“It is getting really desperate. We have permission to leave. We are in touch with the British forces but they say they are powerless to help.”
Mr Wallace said some of Mr Farthing’s more militant supporters had “taken up too much time” of senior commanders.
However, on Friday the Ministry of Defence (MoD) announced Mr Farthing and his animals were on the brink of escape.
In a tweet, the MoD said: “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. On the direction of the Defence Secretary, clearance for their charter flight has been sponsored by the UK Government.”
Mr Wallace also said that Britain’s evacuation effort in Kabul has entered its final hours and has largely ended processing new evacuees, with the Baron Hotel processing centre now closed.
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