Pen Farthing ‘embarrassed’ by expletive-laden message to government aide

Animal rescue charity founder threatened MoD aide in bid to evacuate pets

Tim Wyatt
Monday 30 August 2021 13:28
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<p>Paul ‘Pen’ Farthing refused to take an evacuation flight unless his animals could come too</p>

Paul ‘Pen’ Farthing refused to take an evacuation flight unless his animals could come too

A former Royal Marine who left a foul-mouthed voicemail for a senior Ministry of Defence (MoD) advisor while fighting to evacuate 200 dogs and cats from Afghanistan has apologised for his language.

Paul “Pen” Farthing said his emotions had “got the better” of him when leaving his expletive-laden rant for Peter Quentin, a special advisor to the defence secretary Ben Wallace.

The former soldier, who served in Afghanistan before setting up an animal rescue charity called Nowzad, told ITV’s Good Morning Britain he was “incredible embarrassed” after the voicemail was leaked to The Times over the weekend.

“I’m incredibly embarrassed about my language, I do apologise to everybody who’s listened to that,” he said.

"I was at the lowest point I could possibly be. I understand how the world works but emotions got the better of me, so for all those who had to listen to that I do apologise for my language.

"I should not have said it like that, but the sentiment, yes, I was just incredibly upset, angry, frustrated, it was the lowest point. I had no other option, I didn’t know what else to do.

"So that’s why you’ve probably heard some colourful language."

Mr Farthing’s quest to get his 200 dogs and cats from the Nowzad shelter evacuated became a viral sensation on social media over the past month.

At times, the former marine had accused the MoD of barring him and his animals from rescue flights, something Mr Wallace has taken to Twitter to furiously deny.

However, defence officials in Kabul and Whitehall did insist Mr Farthing would not be allowed to “jump the queue” and must wait his turn with the thousands of other Afghans and Britons trying to get into the airport.

He was offered a seat on a plane home last week, which his wife accepted, but the animal lover refused to go unless his horde of rescued pets were also flown with him.

Eventually, he was permitted to organise a private charter flight to Afghanistan, which collected him and the 200 animals and landed in Heathrow on Sunday.

Despite widespread support for this “Operation Ark” on social media, others in government accused Mr Farthing of distracting the attention of hard-pressed military and diplomatic officials who were focused on getting as many people onto rescue flights as possible.

While still in Kabul, Mr Farthing left a voicemail for Mr Quentin threatening with trying to ruin his reputation online if he did not facilitate the charter flight for Nowzad.

“I am not taking this bollocks from people like you who are blocking me. You’ve got ’til tomorrow morning,” The Times reported the message said.

“Here’s the deal, buddy. You either get me that f***ing Isaf number and you get me permission to get onto that f***ing airfield, or tomorrow morning I’m going to turn on you and the whole f***ing country, and everybody else who’s invested in this rescue, is going to know it’s you — YOU — blocking this f***ing move. Alright?”

Ultimately, Mr Farthing was able to bring his truck-loads of rescued pets into the airport, although he insisted this was with no help or permission from the British authorities.

“Nobody in the British Government facilitated my entry into that airport – I did that with the Taliban,” he said on Good Morning Britain.

“Nobody facilitated my entry... any interpreters or anybody else, there was me and the truck full of dogs and cats, which went into a cargo hold where you cannot put people."

He did concede he was perhaps the last person to gain access to the airport before the British operation was wound down, and said he was the only human passenger on his plane to safety, despite initially claiming he would not leave Afghanistan without his local staff as well.

Foreign Office minister James Cleverly said earlier the government had also prioritised people over animals in the evacuation.

"Mr Farthing is a British national, he had the opportunity to leave Afghanistan much earlier,” he told the LBC radio station.

“His staff are enrolled on to the scheme by which Afghans that worked with the British were able to be evacuated. But as I have said, we have always prioritised the evacuation of people."

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