Nowzad founder believes Boris Johnson did not intervene in animal evacuation

Paul Farthing said he had ‘absolutely no dealings with anybody in Government’.

Pa Reporters
Friday 28 January 2022 19:59
Paul ‘Pen’ Farthing (Nowzad/PA)
Paul ‘Pen’ Farthing (Nowzad/PA)

Nowzad founder Paul “Pen” Farthing said he believes Boris Johnson did not intervene to help him evacuate animals from Afghanistan.

It comes amid allegations the Prime Minister assisted the approval of the animal charity’s evacuation of cats and dogs from Kabul as thousands of people wanting to flee the Taliban were left behind.

Despite published leaked correspondence suggesting then-foreign secretary Dominic Raab and No 10 were involved in the decision, Mr Johnson dismissed reports as “total rhubarb”.

Mr Farthing has said he had “absolutely no dealings with anybody in Government” aside from Conservative MP Trudy Harrison then parliamentary private secretary to Boris Johnson, who “refused” to knock on the PM’s door and ask for his permission to evacuate the animals.

Boris Johnson dismissed reports as ‘total rhubarb’ (Carl Recine/PA)

Asked by Channel 4 News if Mr Johnson was telling the truth when he said allegations of his involvement were “rhubarb”, Mr Farthing said: “I absolutely believe he is because if Boris Johnson intervenes, why did I almost not make it out of Kabul? Surely if I was prioritised, if pets were prioritised over people, how come we left after Operation Pitting?

“The British military did not help me get those dogs and cats on to that flight. They had left. They had gone, no British troops whatsoever facilitated my entry into Kabul airport.

“At no time did I ask anybody that we should jump a queue to get out of Kabul.

“I can say with my hand on my heart with absolute honesty, I have no idea who in Government approved our flight. The first time I found out, it was exactly the same time as everybody else was when Ben Wallace tweeted at 1.30 in the morning UK time that he had approved for our aircraft to land in Kabul.

“I’ve no idea who said yes, I’m just so grateful they did. Sixty-seven people are now starting new lives here in the United Kingdom and whoever said yes, they should be incredibly proud of that.”

Mr Farthing, a former marine, said he had “never ever” had any direct contact with Mr Johnson or his wife, Carrie.

Mr Farthing said he ‘never ever’ had contact with the Prime Minister (Nowzad/PA)

Downing Street also insisted Mr Johnson played “no role” in authorising individual evacuations during the RAF rescue mission, Operation Pitting.

As Kabul fell to the Taliban, Mr Farthing launched a high-profile campaign to get his staff and animals out, using a plane funded through donations.

The Government sponsored clearance for the charter flight, leading to allegations that animals had been prioritised over people in the exit effort.

Sir Philip Barton, the Foreign Office’s permanent under-secretary, had told the Foreign Affairs Committee that Nigel Casey, the Prime Minister’s special representative for Afghanistan, had not received any correspondence referring to any intervention in the evacuation of animals.

Sir Philip Barton apologised for misleading MPs (House of Commons)

But in emails revealed by Newsnight, Mr Casey was seen to have asked an official “to seek clear guidance for us from No 10 asap on what they would like us to do” in the case.

Sir Philip had already written to the committee’s chairman, Tory MP Tom Tugendhat, to apologise after previously revealed emails showed Mr Casey had received correspondence.

He said he had given “inadvertently inaccurate answers”.

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