‘Would you save a child or a dog from a fire?’ Fury at Pen Farthing’s animal rescue choice

Pen Farthing says his animals were in the plane’s cargo hold

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Mr Farthing had originally planned to take his 173 animals back to the UK along with his 25 staff members and their families, as well as any Afghan citizens or British nationals that needed to be evacuated. In the end, he flew home alone after the Taliban refused entry to his staff and military powers failed to organise a citizen evacuation plan for the plane.


Speaking this morning he said: “Sadly, on that flight out of there was just me.

“I asked the British again and said would you like to actually add people onto this flight, they reassured me that they had enough capacity for all the people they needed to get out.

“They thanked me for the offer and said no it’s all yours.”

His wife, Kaisa Markhus, added: “We contacted the flight tower and they said [they] would contact any other nations and will say that Pen Farthing has available seats. So it was all informed about, and we did the best we could.”

Animals should not have been rescued while people were still stranded, according to 66 percent of Express.co.uk readers who took part in a poll of 12,208 people held from 11am August 29 and 11am August 30.

But where the blame lies for the decision is not straightforward.

Reader, Alan RT, claimed the ex-Royal Marine’s motto must be “Pen & pets before women and children”.

But Mr Farthing had thousands of fans to come to his defence.

One reader said: “What a world we live in when a good person is vilified for a humane and caring act.”

But another responded: “Is it caring and humane to take up a [time] slot that could have been used for a plane carrying humans? That could equate to up to 800 lives saved, or in this case, lost.”

More argument erupted in the Express comment section as a reader posed the question: “If your child and your dog were trapped in a fire, would you be happy if the fire brigade left your child to save your dog?”

Another person furiously replied: “If, despite all efforts, it was impossible to rescue the child, would you leave the dog to perish? I really don’t see your point.”

Chair of the Foreign Affairs Select Committee, Tom Tugendhat, said: “The difficulty is getting people into and out of the airport and we’ve just used a lot of troops to get in 200 dogs, meanwhile my interpreter’s family are likely to be killed.”

Mr Farthing strongly rejected Mr Tugendhat’s comments.

He explained: “Nobody, nobody in the British Government facilitated my entry into that airport.

“I did that, with the Taliban.”

However, it was British troops who helped Mr Farthing load the animals onto the plane, taking up their time and military resources.

Mr Farthing blamed the British Government, the Taliban, and American paperwork bureaucracy for the fact that he was not able to fill the available airplane seats with vulnerable Afghans and British nationals.

He explained: “There were people out on the street who have still got British Passports, who are still out there.

“I could not get them into that airport, I tried.

“The Taliban would only let me go.”

Mr Farthing said the Taliban refused his staff passage through the airport, and forced them back out into the aftermath of the bombings, because they did not have the correct paperwork, after President Joe Biden had made a rule change just two hours before.

He added: “I’m not sat here with a big smile on my face, because I had to leave them [staff] behind, because of some paperwork, can you believe that, it is literally a warzone and the paperwork was wrong and the people were on the right side of the fence.”

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An Express reader commended Mr Farthing for his campaign efforts towards ‘Operation Ark’, saying: “Hold on a minute – he tried to get all 25 staff on the plane and wanted to get as many others on the plane too, but he was stopped at the airport by the Taliban, who refused to let any staff or others on the flight.

“The man did a fantastic job, he tried the hardest he could.

“As for the USA and UK governments don’t get me started.”

Defence Secretary Ben Wallace had initially denied Mr Farthing and his animal convoy permission to board their private flight.

He said: “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.”

The Sunday Times obtained a recording of Mr Farthing’s ranting at a Government aide accusing him of “blocking” efforts to evacuate his staff and animals from Kabul.

In the recording, Mr Farthing said that if he did not receive permission he would “spend the rest of my time fing destroying you on social media and every other fing platform I can find”.

He added: “So here’s the deal, buddy.

You either get me that f***ing ISAF number and you get me permission to get onto that f***ing airfield, or tomorrow morning I’m going to turn on you and the whole f***ing country, and everybody else who’s invested in this rescue, is going to know it’s you — YOU — blocking this f***ing move. Alright?”

When questioned over the incident, Mr Farthing said: “I’m going to have to say now, so everybody knows.

“I’m incredibly embarrassed about my language. I do apologise to everybody who’s listened to that.”

He added: “I should not have said it like that, but the sentiment, yes, I was just incredibly upset, angry, frustrated.

“It was the lowest point, I had no other option, I didn’t know what else to do.

“So that’s why you’ve probably heard some colourful language.”

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