Afghanistan's Operation Ark: Pen Farthing, his Afghan vet team Nowzad and their animals must be saved from the Taliban – Hayley Matthews

I don't know where to start with all the things I want to say about the situation at Kabul Airport.

By Hayley Matthews
Saturday, 28th August 2021, 4:55 am
Former Royal Marine Pen Farthing set up an animal rescue centre in Afghanistan. He and his team are now trying to leave the country with their animals.
Former Royal Marine Pen Farthing set up an animal rescue centre in Afghanistan. He and his team are now trying to leave the country with their animals.

I'm not sure I can even put into words the devastation that we've been seeing the last few days. I've written this article so many times and as the situation is changing by the minute, please keep in mind anything could have happened since writing this yesterday.

I want to speak about the animals from Operation Ark who are waiting in trucks, baking in the 30-degrees-plus heat. Now, before anyone backs up Defence Secretary Ben Wallace's statements that “humans should always come before animals", the animals would go in the plane’s hold.

So I'm right behind ex-Marine-turned-animal-rescuer Pen Farthing who, with his Nowzad team, raised thousands of pounds to hire a private flight to rescue 69 Afghans, including children and a newborn, along with their 200 rescued animals.

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Pen has lots of support after the Ministry of Defence "allegedly" cancelled their private plane. Pen insisted all he needs is permission to get to the airport and safe passage.

They'll only take up 70 seats for himself, his Nowzad team and their families. Whoever else the MoD wants to rescue can go on the plane with them. No taxpayers’ money is paying for this because Nowzad raised the funds themselves.

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They have among them the first female Afghan vet as well as vet nurses. Pets at Home and Vets Now have promised Nowzad staff jobs as there’s a vet shortage in the UK right now.

The hashtag #operationark is trending and I've been sifting through the internet for news on them all day and night. My heart breaks for those animals in those crates in the heat.

It will be a tragedy if they are left to die of heatstroke or to be slaughtered by the Taliban. I feel so helpless and am praying they are allowed on their plane immediately!

Loads of people are getting involved on Twitter. Ricky Gervais tweeted, “And they rescued a f***ing car? Shame” after newspapers published a picture of a clapped-out old Toyota in the middle of refugees taking up a lot of space.

Officials insisted the Toyota was a diplomatic vehicle and there was empty space on the flight but I'm not buying it! Nonsense! There should be no empty space on the flights, rescue them all!

I can't stop thinking about the situation. I've signed the petition on which calls for the MoD to get Pen, his animals, staff and the refugees on his plane and to safety immediately!

I'm hoping for good news over the next few days. However, there are reports no more people will be called forward for evacuation.

It's heartbreaking how someone who is trying so hard to do good is being given little to no support from the UK and US governments. I'll leave you with Pen’s most recent tweet as of me writing this which, to say the least, is infuriatingly disappointing, heartbreaking and upsetting beyond belief!

"The whole team & dogs/cats were safely 300m inside the airport perimeter. We were turned away as @JoeBiden @POTUS had changed paperwork rules just 2 hours earlier. Went through hell to get there & we were turned away into the chaos of those devastating explosions." #OperationArk

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