Is it fair to blame a charity worker for the government’s bungled Afghan withdrawal?

The rescue of 200 cats and dogs from Afghanistan has produced lots of incorrect media reports. Much reporting has been very good but there have been a few articles I’ve read that have been quite biased.

You may ask, well, what would I know? Obviously I wasn’t there but I have listened to the source – Pen Farthing – who has produced several videos and been interviewed several times and it’s obvious from these that there’s a gulf between what he says and what the negative reports are saying and even more obvious is they didn’t interview him for their stories. Journalists are supposed to be unbiased and get comments from all parties for the stories they write. I won’t mention any names but they’re from both sides of the media political spectrum.

The gist of those articles attacking Farthing are that pets were prioritised over people and that because of this, some Afghans were unable to be evacuated. Farthing disputes these claims but his side of the story is not included in those articles. It seems more likely to me that the government bungled the withdrawal from Afghanistan and to direct the spotlight away from their own blunders they’ve targeted Farthing.

If you’re interested in hearing his side then there’s this video he filmed on the Facebook Nowzad page and also an interview with him on Good Morning Britain. This podcast with Dominic Dyer explains what was happening in the UK behind the scenes to get a plane and the approval for Nowzad staff and animals to come to the UK.

The main points are:

  1. Animals went in the cargo hold of the plane. The seats on the plane were almost all empty because the Taliban wouldn’t let Afghan Nowzad staff into the airport and although Pen Farthing offered the seats for people to use to the MoD (Ministry of Defence) they declined.
  2. Farthing facilitated his own passage to and into the airport by negotiating with the Taliban. The MoD did not help with this bit at all.
  3. US troops helped to load the cats and dogs on the plane, not British troops who had already all left. The US troops were apparently awaiting their own plane and if you were sitting waiting for your plane and saw what he was trying to do any decent person would have helped and so they did. Why is that so controversial?
  4. Had MoD not delayed the paperwork for Nowzad staff then they’d have all made the flight and landed in the UK. This is according to the lead vet of the operation Iain McGill.

If it hadn’t been for prevarication by the MOD [Ministry of Defence] early on in our mission, we would have got those people off that airfield several days earlier, and we could have got several planes in to take our people, and shuttle many others to the third country and on to our 767.

Even worse is the MoD Tweeted information about their flight before it landed. I remember seeing that Tweet and was relieved Nowzad were managing to get out of Kabul but if you listen to the podcast I link to above you’ll hear the organisers behind the operation were dismayed by this. It was giving information about their commercial plane and their flight path to potentially hostile forces in Afghanistan. The MoD must surely have known this which begs the question: why did they do that?

If we accept MoD’s version of events and consider only the pets over people argument then this has its own problems. People often use a similar argument when they object to giving aid to people in poverty-stricken countries because they think we should help people close to home first. If we follow this argument to its logical conclusion we’d have no RSPCA and no animal charities at all because by donating money to the RSPCA you are depriving a human charity of those funds.

It gets worse though because each time we buy ourselves a coffee or a new outfit or something frivolous that we don’t need, we are putting personal luxuries before people in dire poverty because that money could have been donated to a charity that helps them. For instance, £1 can provide life-saving treatment against the parasite schistosomiasis for three people.

There are lots of good causes in the world. Helping one of them doesn’t preclude others from helping a different one. Helping our own species doesn’t mean we can’t help other species too. In some ways I think we have even more an obligation to other species because we have destroyed much of their habitat and are now changing the climate they have evolved in faster than ever before.

I’ll end with one last thing. One of the negative articles was in The Spectator and not long after publication this appeared. I took this screenshot myself. It makes it clear that evacuating Farthing and the rescue animals made no difference whatsoever to the number of people the government got out of the country.

6 Replies to “Is it fair to blame a charity worker for the government’s bungled Afghan withdrawal?”

  1. I’m of the belief that people who come out with the “what about people?” response when they hear that animals have been helped in any way, are actually very selfish people. I will put money on it that they’re not the sort to help anyone. Personally, I’ve never been aware of anyone who helps people saying this sort of thing. They understand that compassion is not limited to one narrow field. What the people who come out with the “what about people?” response are actually saying is “what about me?” They feel that in some way by not prioritising people all the time, it might result in them missing out on something for themselves at some stage.

  2. You’ve written a good article, very well thought out and informed.
    I see glimpses of people’s awful attitudes sometimes when someone I don’t know very well on Facebook gets involved in right wing threads. The most shocking I’ve seen is the indignant opinion that people shouldn’t be “running away” from Afghanistan but should “stay and fight” (often they add “like men”).
    I have read about the generally hostile atmosphere being fostered towards refugees by the government – reluctance of certain officials to allow people in and this delaying of paperwork was something I hadn’t read about but doesn’t surprise me. How heartbreaking. I have also read articles that the HO will see any deportation case through to the end once they go to court, even if they are wrong and the case is hopeless, because it’s less work for them to instruct lawyers to fight it than to actually look at the cases and make a decision. Waste of taxpayers’ money and a totally inhumane approach.

    1. Ah yes that’s something I hadn’t considered. Making it about pets versus people meant they could delay and prevent all the Nowzad staff from getting out. I couldn’t understand why they would want to block rescue animals that are all going to be adopted and cost the tax payer nothing but this could well have been an excuse to prevent the evacuation of the veterinary staff.

  3. Excellent post. Thank you for covering the aspects some parts of the media chose to neglect.

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