Nearly 200 shelter animals were rescued from Kabul and flown to the U.K. after a controversial social media campaign from its founder and its supporters.
Pen Farthing, a former U.K. Royal Marine, and approximately 94 dogs and 79 cats flew on a charter plane from his rescue organization called Nowzad in Kabul to Heathrow airport on Sunday.
Named Operation Ark, the successful mission came after Farthing and his staff were turned away from the airport earlier in the week. While Farthing and the animals finally made it on the plane, his team ended up being turned away from the airport because their paperwork was rejected, meaning they are left to fend for themselves in the now Taliban-controlled country.
Deemed a triumph in the rescue world, with many rallying behind Farthing, including celebs like Ricky Gervais, the mission has caused a rift among the British.
Some claim that Farthing’s supporters bombarded the government with tweets and emails pressuring them to help the animals. Members of Parliament pushed back saying Farthing and his social media followers were taking up too much time, resources, and energy to rescue the dogs and cats, and the focus should be on the people.
Former British soldier, Julian Perreira, who was helping interpreters get to the airport said: “It is a shame the interpreters were not given the same VIP treatment … as the animals,” according to The Sunday Times.
Farthing said the animals would not take the place of any person, as they would be in cargo. He went on to appeal directly to the Taliban’s spokesperson on Twitter, writing, “Dear Sir; my team & my animals are stuck at airport circle. We have a flight waiting. Can you please facilitate safe passage into the airport for our convoy? Suhail Shaheen, We are an NGO who will come back to Afghanistan but right now I want to get everyone out safely.”
Farthing’s rescue Nowzad began after the Royal Marine served in Afghanistan in the mid-2000s. While on deployment he broke up a fight between two dogs. One ended up following him and spent the next six months by his side before bringing him back home.
Now in the U.K. Farthing is focusing his efforts on ensuring the animals are healthy, stable, and are able to decompress. Hopefully, his team and their family will be able to join him soon.