A Royal Marine veteran – who served in the elite unit for 22 years – and who has chartered a flight to get his 70 staff and 200 rescued animals out of Afghan has been given the green light to leave the country by Defence Secretary Ben Wallace.
Paul ‘Pen’ Farthing runs the Nowzad animal shelter in Kabul and has said that he will not leave the country without his rescue centre staff and animals.
He has even attracted the support of Ricky Gervais.
Dear stupid cunts saying we shouldn’t put animals before people..— Ricky Gervais (@rickygervais) August 24, 2021
1. The animals go in the hold where people can’t go.
2. This is an extra, privately funded plane that will allow MORE people to be saved. #OperationArk
The operation to save his staff and animals has been dubbed ‘Operation Ark’.
Farthing has spent $500,000 on chartering an aircraft that is on the ground in Kabul, and that is poised ready to remove Farthing, his staff and his animals from the Taliban-controlled country.
But Pen has faced delays owing to ‘paperwork’ issues, as the Taliban enforced deadline for people leaving the country looms ever closer.
Speaking to Sky News yesterday (24 August), the Defence Secretary said:
“[Farthing] could get through the gates as a British passport holder.
“He was called forward on Friday and I recommend he takes that.
“His workforce have been offered, as entitled personnel, places and they will be able to be called forward, but I can’t guarantee in this window they will be processed onto aircraft, all I can say is they qualify.
“As for the animals that he was rescuing… it is just not going to be the case that I will prioritise them over the men, women and children we see in desperate need at the gate.”
But Wallace has said that if Farthing, his animals and his staff can make it to the airport, he ‘will seek a slot for his plane’.
Posting on Twitter, Wallace said:
“Now that Pen Farthing’s staff have been cleared to come forward under LOTR I have authorised MOD to facilitate their processing alongside all other eligible personnel at HKIA.
“At that stage, if he arrives with his animals we will seek a slot for his plane.
“If he does not have his animals with him he and his staff can board an RAF flight.
“I have been consistent all along, ensuring those most at risk are processed first and that the limiting factor has been flow THROUGH to airside NOT airplane capacity.
“No one has the right in this humanitarian crisis to jump the queue.”
Yesterday, Farthing hit back at unfounded claims he had been attempting to put his animals before people.
Pen told Sky News:
“Mr Wallace, I never asked you to prioritise pets over people. At no point have I ever said that, whatsoever.
“We got a flight and we’ve said, we will wait – you’ve just got to give us this call sign so we can actually get it in play, get the airline to actually start the flight plans and then we will sit quite happily and wait.
“We’ve got an aircraft that we need to put 69 people on, it’s got capacity for 250 people.
“And in that cargo hold – it’ll be empty. I can’t park people in a cargo hold, but I can park my animals in that cargo hold.”
Now Pen faces the enormous challenge of getting his staff and rescued animals to the airport before the deadline is imposed by the Taliban.
Keep up-to-date Pen’s progress by following his Facebook page