The man who cares for goats

The Army has an unlikely secret weapon in the fight against the Taliban – a vet

It may not feature very highly in Nato's counter-insurgency manual but British forces have discovered that one way to triumph in the most vital battle of the Afghan war, winning over the hearts and minds of the local population, is through their goats and sheep.

Capt Miles Malone, an Army vet, has been flown to an area recently retaken from the Taliban to offer treatment on the herds of the farmers. His work will take place alongside other, larger-scale initiatives such as the building of hospitals and roads.

Such has been the benefit of Capt Malone's presence in Helmand that the post will now become a permanent one, with a replacement arriving when the officer leaves at the end of the tour. The numbers of vets in the battlefield may even be increased in the future.

Perhaps inevitably, the vet is being described as "the Herriot of Helmand" by colleagues at the Ministry of Defence eager to promote this positive development among the often bleak dispatches from Afghanistan.

The allusion to the fictional British television character has left many Afghans somewhat puzzled, but there seems to be unanimity among the farmers that Capt Miles is good news and they would be sorry to see him go.

In the seven months he had been based at the main British headquarters in the province, Camp Bastion, Capt Malone has looked after more than 8,000 animals and opened a series of rural veterinary clinics for communities in surrounding areas.

Being flown in by RAF Chinook to Nad-e-Ali, next to Marjah, and picking his way through paths strewn with IEDs (improvised explosive devices) has added another dimension to his work, although one of his tasks at Camp Bastion, he points out, had been to look after the sniffer dogs used by bomb disposal teams.

Capt Malone, 28, from Mount Bures near Sudbury, in Suffolk, said: "These animals are basically the bank accounts of the farmers. Some of these goats are worth $70 each. A lot of people round here are surviving on about a dollar a day, so economically they are extremely important.

"There is very little understanding among the local farmers of veterinary care or basic animal husbandry. So I split my time when I run clinics between treating the flocks and educating the farmers."

The education can be a painstaking process. "There is near-total ignorance about causes and spread of disease, breeding cycles and how milk is produced," he said. "If a goat stops milking, it is said to be 'Allah's will' rather than the fact that it has not bred for 18 months and therefore has no anatomical reason to produce milk."

Speaking at Patrol Base Shaheed which was set up by soldiers of the 1st Battalion, The Royal Welsh, Capt Miles continued: "Having the opportunity for a vet to come down and deliver medication, treatment and also advice to the local farmers has been a real win. In part because it displays our intent to stay here and that our actions are in support of the community. The Taliban just cannot compete."

The Taliban have, in the past, attempted to halt vaccination programmes for villagers by telling people that they were being infected as part of a Western plot. They have not, however, tried the same tactic when it comes to animals.

Mohammed Sharqi, at the agriculture ministry in Kabul, said: "The farmers in Helmand are like farmers in most places, they are shrewd people and they know what is getting them financial benefits. They are not going to let the Talibs interfere with that. This programme should be expanded."

The Society for the Protection of Animals Abroad is running a project in Helmand training Afghan nationals to become veterinary technicians.

Suggested Topics
Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
ebooks
ebooksA special investigation by Andy McSmith
Life and Style
love + sex
Arts and Entertainment
Victoria Wood, Kayvan Novak, Alexa Chung, Chris Moyles
tvReview: No soggy bottoms, but plenty of other baking disasters on The Great Comic Relief Bake Off
Sport
Ashley Young celebrates the winner for Manchester United against Newcastle
footballNewcastle 0 Man United 1: Last minute strike seals precious victory
Life and Style
Tikka Masala has been overtaken by Jalfrezi as the nation's most popular curry
food + drink
Arts and Entertainment
Seth Rogan is one of America’s most famous pot smokers
filmAmy Pascal resigned after her personal emails were leaked following a cyber-attack sparked by the actor's film The Interview
News
Benjamin Netanyahu and his cartoon bomb – the Israeli PM shows his ‘evidence’
people
Arts and Entertainment
80s trailblazer: comedian Tracey Ullman
tv
News
i100
Life and Style
A statue of the Flemish geographer Gerard Kremer, Geradus Mercator (1512 - 1594) which was unveiled at the Geographical Congree at Anvers. He was the first person to use the word atlas to describe a book of maps.
techThe 16th century cartographer created the atlas
Arts and Entertainment
Stephen Tompkinson is back as DCI Banks
tvReview: Episode one of the new series played it safe, but at least this drama has a winning formula
News
i100
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Recruitment Genius: UI / UX Designer

£25000 - £35000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This firm are focussed on assis...

Recruitment Genius: General Processor

£7 per hour: Recruitment Genius: A vacancy has arisen for a General Processor ...

Recruitment Genius: Outbound Sales Executive - B2B

£18000 - £22000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: A great opportunity has arisen ...

Recruitment Genius: Online Sales and Customer Services Associate

£14000 - £16000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: Full time and Part time positio...

Day In a Page

War with Isis: Iraq's government fights to win back Tikrit from militants - but then what?

Baghdad fights to win back Tikrit from Isis – but then what?

Patrick Cockburn reports from Kirkuk on a conflict which sectarianism has made intractable
Living with Alzheimer's: What is it really like to be diagnosed with early-onset dementia?

What is it like to live with Alzheimer's?

Depicting early-onset Alzheimer's, the film 'Still Alice' had a profound effect on Joy Watson, who lives with the illness. She tells Kate Hilpern how she's coped with the diagnosis
The Internet of Things: Meet the British salesman who gave real-world items a virtual life

Setting in motion the Internet of Things

British salesman Kevin Ashton gave real-world items a virtual life
Election 2015: Latest polling reveals Tories and Labour on course to win the same number of seats - with the SNP holding the balance of power

Election 2015: A dead heat between Mr Bean and Dick Dastardly!

Lord Ashcroft reveals latest polling – and which character voters associate with each leader
Audiences queue up for 'true stories told live' as cult competition The Moth goes global

Cult competition The Moth goes global

The non-profit 'slam storytelling' competition was founded in 1997 by the novelist George Dawes Green and has seen Malcolm Gladwell, Salman Rushdie and Molly Ringwald all take their turn at the mic
Pakistani women come out fighting: A hard-hitting play focuses on female Muslim boxers

Pakistani women come out fighting

Hard-hitting new play 'No Guts, No Heart, No Glory' focuses on female Muslim boxers
Leonora Carrington transcended her stolid background to become an avant garde star

Surreal deal: Leonora Carrington

The artist transcended her stolid background to become an avant garde star
LGBT History Month: Pupils discuss topics from Sappho to same-sex marriage

Education: LGBT History Month

Pupils have been discussing topics from Sappho to same-sex marriage
11 best gel eyeliners

Go bold this season: 11 best gel eyeliners

Use an ink pot eyeliner to go bold on the eyes with this season's feline flicked winged liner
Cricket World Cup 2015: Tournament runs riot to make the event more hit than miss...

Cricket World Cup runs riot to make the event more hit than miss...

The tournament has reached its halfway mark and scores of 300 and amazing catches abound. One thing never changes, though – everyone loves beating England
Katarina Johnson-Thompson: Heptathlete ready to jump at first major title

Katarina Johnson-Thompson: Ready to jump at first major title

After her 2014 was ruined by injury, 21-year-old Briton is leading pentathlete going into this week’s European Indoors. Now she intends to turn form into gold
Syrian conflict is the world's first 'climate change war', say scientists, but it won't be the last one

Climate change key in Syrian conflict

And it will trigger more war in future
How I outwitted the Gestapo

How I outwitted the Gestapo

My life as a Jew in wartime Berlin
The nation's favourite animal revealed

The nation's favourite animal revealed

Women like cuddly creatures whilst men like creepy-crawlies
Is this the way to get young people to vote?

Getting young people to vote

From #VOTESELFISH to Bite the Ballot