5 min read
Boris Johnson personally authorized the evacuation of former soldier Pen Farthing and his animals from Afghanistan, according to documents released by the Foreign Affairs Committee.
The email from the office of foreign, commonwealth and development office of minister Zac Goldsmith, said that the Prime Minister himself had made a decision to allow the evacuation of staff and animals from Farthing’s charity Nowzad – including 173 cats and dogs – during the August airlift from Afghanistan.
Goldsmith’s office stated that “Nowzad, run by an ex Royal Marine, has received a lot of publicity and the PM has just authorized their staff and animals to be evacuated.”
During the height of the Afghanistan crisis last year, the government faced accusations of using military resources to save the lives of animals from Farthing’s Nowzad shelter over those of humans.
Johnson explicitly denied personally intervening to help save Farthing’s pets at the time, and described the accusations as “complete nonsense.”
Today, the defense secretary Ben Wallace echoed Johnson’s claim, stating that “at no point were [the Chief of Joint Operations] or I directed by the Prime Minister to evacuate Pen Farthing, his workforce or his pets.”
“As I made clear at the time, we were not going to put pets before people and as the actions showed, Pen Farthing left last and his workforce had to leave after the evacuation was concluded via other means,” Wallace said.
“The idea that an environment minister and his officials had any authority or responsibility in the running of the evacuation is ludicrous.
“I am however aware of false claims made throughout by Nowzad that led to considerable distress and distraction to those trying to save lives in very difficult circumstances.”
Goldsmith later said he “did not authorize and do not support anything that would have put animals’ lives ahead of peoples'”.
“My position, which I made clear publicly, was that the UK should prioritize evacuating people,” Goldsmith said in a statement posted on social media.
“I never discussed the Nowzad charity or their efforts to evacuate animals with the PM.”
I did not authorize & do not support anything that would have put animals’ lives ahead of peoples’. My position, which I made clear publicly, was that the UK should prioritize evacuating people. I never discussed the NOWZAD charity or their efforts to evacuate animals with the PM
— Zac Goldsmith (@ZacGoldsmith) January 26, 2022
In December last year an FCDO whistleblower accused the Prime Minister of prioritizing pets over people in written evidence to the foreign affairs committee.
In a testimony delivered to the foreign affairs committee, Raphael Marshall stated that “there was a direct trade-off between transporting Nowzad’s animals and evacuating British nationals and Afghans evacuees, including Afghans who had served with British soldiers”.
“The PM’s corrosive and chronic dishonesty is debasing his office,” Labor’s shadow foreign secretary David Lammy said in response to the new evidence that Johnson may have lied about his involvement in Farthing’s evacuation.
“Here’s Johnson denying it, and here’s the email showing it happened.
“The man is a pathological liar. Untrustworthy, unlikeable and absolutely unsuitable for the office of Prime Minister.”
John Healey, Labour’s shadow defense secretary, echoed Lammy and accused Johnson of having “been caught out lying”.
“He should never have given priority to flying animals out of Afghanistan while Afghans who worked for our armed forces were left behind,” he said.
“Boris Johnson is unable to make the serious decisions that are needed, at home and for our allies abroad.”
Healey added that the Farthing case is an example of the Prime Minister “once again prioritizing the wrong things and making the wrong calls”.
“We need to know why the PM overruled the Defense Secretary with this decision,” the shadow minister said.
At a briefing the Prime Minister’s official spokesperson said that Johnson had “no role in authorizing individual evacuations from Afghanistan”, including Farthing, his staff and animals.
“At no point did the Prime Minister instruct staff to take any particular course of action on Nowzad.”
In the months since UK flew out vets and animals from Kabul — apparently at PM’s personal request — others who weren’t given a place on plans have been killed & attacked (including women’s rights activist, policewomen, pregnant wife of senior consultant on UK aid project) https://t.co/QDTL9RB8Dr
— Emma Graham-Harrison (@_EmmaGH) January 26, 2022
In response to social media criticism about the evacuation of his animals, and the suggestion that “others who weren’t given a place on plans have been killed and attacked”, Farthing said today: “You would do well to read my submitted evidence, which is also on the government website.
“The UK government did not fly any dogs or cats anywhere. Our vets also went by road – DO SOME RESEARCH! #dumb.”
Please delete this tweet @_EmmaGH has you would do well to read my submitted evidence which is also on the government website. The UK government did not fly any dogs or cats anywhere. Our vets also went by road – DO SOME RESEARCH! #dumb https://t.co/YjWWo2lOSY
— Pen Farthing (@PenFarthing) January 26, 2022
Tim Naor Hilton, chief executive of the charity Refugee Action, told PoliticsHome that in light of the recent revelations concerning Farthing, the government should grant asylum to an addition 20,000 Afghans at risk in the region.
“Ever since the evacuation of Kabul this Government has continued to roll back its offers of protection to the people of Afghanistan,” Hilton said.
“It has diluted its resettlement program to the point where it’s no longer clear if many more Afghan people still stuck in the country or neighboring nations will be offered protection.
“Ministers must not duck their responsibilities. They must pledge to protect an extra 20,000 people in addition to the people already here.”
PoliticsHome provides the most comprehensive coverage of UK politics anywhere on the web, offering high quality original reporting and analysis: Subscribe
George Holan is chief editor at Plainsmen Post and has articles published in many notable publications in the last decade.