Letter on Pen Farthing's evacuation from Afghanistan
- Credit: Angela Humphery
Stand by Pen and his courageous fight
Angela Humphery, Hampstead, writes:
I first met Pen Farthing about 15 years ago at an event sponsored by The Mayhew – our local shelter – when he and half a dozen of his fellow marines came to give a slide-show on how he was saving strays while serving in Helmand Province.
He discovered and confiscated his first and special dog, who was being made to fight with another while their owners were placing bets. It had had its ears and tail cut off with scissors so its opponent could not hang on to them. He called this dog Nowzad after the village where he found him and later in 2007 named his charity Nowzad, too. We held a fundraiser to pay for Nowzad’s quarantine after Pen brought him to the UK and kept him as his pet.
We continued to support Pen after he left the army (due to a bad back) and had three more fundraisers for him, one when local comedian Ricky Gervais joined us and subsequently became a patron of Nowzad. The last was just two years ago to celebrate my husband’s and my joint birthdays at Burgh House, a local gem of a venue, raising the magnificent sum of £23,000.
Needless to say, the last couple of weeks have been traumatic for Pen, his team in Kabul and all his supporters, many of us contributing to chartering a cargo plane for him to bring his staff and animals to safety in the UK.
What many don’t understand and who now accuse him of putting animals before people is that his #OperationArk was to rescue both his people and his animals with room to spare for anyone who had the right paperwork to come aboard. When he eventually got to the airport he discovered that just two hours earlier President Joe Biden had changed the rules. No longer were paper permits to be accepted and only Afghanis with passports and visas would be allowed to board. Therefore his staff would not be allowed to fly. After days in the heat waiting to get into the airport they all had to go back to the shelter to discuss Plan B.
As Pen being an ex-soldier would be a prime target, it was agreed that he and the animals should go and that he would try to get his team out as soon as possible. The animals were all stowed in the hold in their cages with a UK vet on board and all arrived safe and sound at LHR on Sunday morning. Sadly, the seats for people were unoccupied. It was no fault of Pen’s that this is what happened. So let’s bury the myth that people’s lives in Afghanistan were lost because of him. Tell it to the Marines!