‘Simple reality’ Afghan animals can’t travel on RAF planes, warns Ben Wallace amid row
Ben Wallace dismisses Pen Farthing’s ‘cut off’ claims
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The Defence Secretary has claimed workers, families and animals associated with Mr Paul Farthing’s Nowzad charity will not be able to flee Afghanistan onboard aircraft linked to the British military. After serving with the Royal Marines in Afghanistan in the mid-2000s, Paul Farthing, known as ‘Pen’, set up Nowzad shelter.
The charity looks after rescued animals, including dogs, cats and donkeys in Afghanistan.
Following the Taliban takeover of Afghanistan, ‘Pen’ Farthing has campaigned for his 140 dogs and 60 cats, along with Nowzad’s staff and their families, to be evacuated from Afghanistan to the UK.
Sky News has revealed during a conference call with MPs, Ben Wallace, 51, suggested the ex-Royal Marine’s employees and animals would instead need to leave Kabul onboard their own chartered plane.
“If the aircraft is not coming, the simple reality is that we can’t put the animals on the RAF plane,” the Defence Secretary said.
“The reason for that is the combination with people, but also the numerous air regulations and the third country we would fly to would mean we had all sorts of issues around public health.
“The aeroplane would need to be taken out of circulation which would mean I couldn’t have an aeroplane I desperately need to take hundreds of people out of the next few days.”
Supporters of Nowzad announced on Tuesday that a donation-funded Airbus A330 was on standby to fly to Kabul in an attempt to rescue Mr Farthing’s workers and animals.
Although Mr Wallace was initially opposed to the idea, the Defence Secretary has since tweeted those eligible to enter the UK from Nowzad would be able to board the chartered Airbus plane.
“Now that Pen Farthing’s staff have been cleared to come forward under LOTR I have authorised MOD to facilitate their processing alongside all other eligible personnel at (Kabul airport),” he wrote.
“At that stage, if he arrives with his animals we will seek a slot for his plane.”
Sky News has revealed the 51-year-old Defence Secretary rebuked accusations by Mr Farthing that his team at the Ministry of Defence had “cut off” efforts to assist Nowzad.
In response to accusations made, Mr Wallace added: “I have to say I have to defend myself on this, there’s a lot of actually falsehoods being made.
“Myself and my department never blocked a single aeroplane from them, right?
“There’s no truth in that at all.”
This comes after Wallace told Nick Ferrari on LBC yesterday morning such claims were “b*ks” and that he needed to put “pets before people”.
The Defence Secretary also told MPs in a conference call he found it “upsetting” that resources had been diverted from saving people to assist Mr Farthing.
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Mr Wallace, who previously served with the Scots Guards in Northern Ireland, added: “What I was not prepared to do is prioritise pets over people, I’m afraid you might dislike me for that but that’s my view, there are also some very, very desperate people under real threat.”
Farthing has been campaigning for his staff, their families and around 200 cats and dogs to be evacuated from Kabul airport to the United Kingdom.
Earlier this week, the ex-Royal Marine obtained 68 visas for his workers to come to Britain.
However, it has been alleged by supporters of Farthing’s charity that Ben Wallace has risked derailing the arrival of Nowzad employees to Britain.
Supporters of Mr Farthing and his charity claim that the Prime Minister and his wife, a patron of the Conservative Animal Welfare Foundation, Carrie Symonds, are behind the move.
However, both Number 10 and sources close to the Ministry of Defence deny such claims.
Multiple Tory backbenchers, including Neil Parish who is the MP that covers Nowzad’s British address in Tiverton, have reportedly pushed the Government to assist the charity’s evacuation from Afghanistan.
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