Britain will come to regret Operation Ark
It was absurd to prioritise cats and dogs ahead of allies and civilians
Today’s reports that the Taliban are prepared to guarantee safe passage for Afghans trying to flee their new regime seem to be providing little comfort to those trapped in Kabul.
But with America’s self-imposed exit deadline upon us, and the UK’s inability to act independently of the US beyond doubt, Taliban goodwill might now be the means available, however spectral, to undo some of the harm done by our exit.
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For as it stands, Britain is now known to the world as the nation that gave cats and dogs top priority while leaving hundreds of allies and collaborators behind.
The row over Pen Farthing and his pets seems to have split the nation (or at least Twitter) down the middle. To some, he’s a hero doing his bit for God’s creatures against a beastly government.
To others, he’s a self-aggrandising, self-righteous hypocrite who asked us to believe he’d stay and die with his dogs but was prepared, when it came to it and despite all his big talk, to leave his staff behind.
How likely is it that the Taliban, having refused them access to the airport on Saturday, is suddenly prepared to facilitate their escape on Sunday? Or is it more likely that it’s just easier for the Islamic Emirate to make promises when the physical lifeline to the West has been cut?
Perhaps we will be able to strike some sort of deal to get more people out, although Kabul’s new rulers will make us pay a price for it. But not even the Biden administration is prepared to say whether we should actually trust the people with whom these deals are being struck.
As and when the Taliban start capturing the very people we should have evacuated, there will be some extremely difficult questions for the Government and military to answer. And while the impact might have been marginal, the absurd priority given to ‘Operation Ark’ will make them even harder.
Yes, Nowzad provided an extra plane. But the evacuation wasn’t short of planes — there were planes leaving with empty seats. It was short of time, and the manpower needed to process people’s papers and escort them securely through the airport.
The military and Ministry of Defence were both clearly uncomfortable with the order to misallocate resources to Farthing’s pets. Very likely it meant at least a handful of people not getting their papers processed who would otherwise have done so. Those people may now never leave Afghanistan.
I am a pet lover, to the extent that I went through the difficult process of relocating a beloved pet from (at the time, rabies free) Spain to the UK when I had to move. But even I can see not just the absurdity, but the immorality of ‘prioritising cats and dogs ahead of allies and civilians’.
There are a whole load of questions that could be asked about this mission (are the animals disease free? / will they have to be put down by Defra when they arrive in the UK? / is the Taliban really so evil and stupid that they would spend their time hunting down puppies and kittens when they could be searching for the infidel?)
The big questions for me are raised by the final paragraph: “The military and Ministry of Defence were both clearly uncomfortable with the order to misallocate resources to Farthing’s pets. Very likely it meant at least a handful of people not getting their papers processed who would otherwise have done so. Those people may now never leave Afghanistan”.
I kind of expect (though maybe I am being a bit naive) that our military and Ministry of Defence are staffed by hard-headed (and by that, I do not mean hard-hearted) people who give great consideration to the morality of warfare and the side effects of warfare. It seems that in this instance the military / MoD were over-ruled by soft-headed politicians with their eye on the potential media fallout of the public hearing about animals surrendered to the Taliban, rather than the few Afghans that might have got onto an evacuation flight instead. I think the politicians have got this wrong. Yes, the British public are animal lovers, but I suggest (at the risk of considerable pushback) that the majority of the public put human rights over animal rights.
“is the Taliban really so evil and stupid that they would spend their time hunting down puppies and kittens when they could be searching for the infidel?)”
I have seen a lot in the world, enough I eventually have lost joy in living as the endless suffering always weighs on me. One of my strong memories of Afghanistan is the cries of animals being harmed or fighting – it is a harsh place, and dogs and cats are not thought of like we do. Once these animals have been taken in and given some compassion I could not bear them being put on the streets where they would suffer so, it would be betrayal –
Personally I would have euthanized them all. I have killed a lot of creatures in my life, they do not have any of the Karma humans do, they are innocents as they do not have ‘Free Will’ and an understanding of Good and Evil, and so humanely euthanized it is not a bad thing if it lessens their misery. I would have rescued them ideally on principal – but not at a cost of people, and of the horror Afghanis will feel of us if they think we let one Person we owed an exit to, be abandoned to save these animals. They would think less of us for that, and we already have made them think badly of us in so many ways.
But what is, is. This whole thing has been so amazingly bad from 1973 till now I just cannot believe how every bad thing the whole 48 years has gotten a response which just makes it worse rather than better. It was completely unnecessary.,
Military Industrial Complex, MSM-Liberal Panderers – the biggest villains, in a vast cast of villains though.
I utterly agree with your comments. I am deeply ashamed of our government!
It seems clear from some Ministry of Defence sources that some considerable effort was put into Operation Ark by British soldiers, which must mean that scarce resources and time did not go into other tasks – such as evacuating more human beings.
What would have happened if Pen Farthing had have opened the cages and let the dogs and cats out? They would have returned to their previous miserable lives, but one they are used to, and it is doubtful if the Taliban would have wasted time and bullets on them. On the other hand, the staff left behind, who have helped a Royal Marine, will be at best interrogated and imprisoned, and at worst led out and shot, especially after the world-wide publicity this has caused. But as many have said, pity about the Afghan staff, but it is a cause of celebration the dogs are rescued.
I live in South America, and already local people are heaping derision on the Brits who would rather rescue animals than human beings, despite soldiers rescuing over 1,000 people to-date. But it will enter folklore and urban myth that if you want the Brits to take notice of you, you’d best wear a fur coat and walk on all four paws.
Goodness knows what the Afghans waiting outside the airport gates in the sewage, dried blood and detritus of bomb blasts must think.
A thought bubble: if the Afghans had have been white, dressed in Western clothes, having a preponderance of cute blond-haired toddlers in strollers, would street dogs have taken preference? Hmmm…
I suspect the Taliban, who have so far cleverly outplayed the Americans and British, know these contradictions and contortions in Western morals, and let the dogs through, knowing that Operation Ark would dominate the evacuation and help disguise the Taliban role in holding back those who helped the Allies for retribution to come.
“A thought bubble: if the Afghans had have been white, dressed in Western clothes, having a preponderance of cute blond-haired toddlers in strollers, would street dogs have taken preference? Hmmm…”
Tell us what you think, as a South African.
“What would have happened if Pen Farthing had have opened the cages and let the dogs and cats out? They would have returned to their previous miserable lives, but one they are used to,”
Really???? You know these were all Kabuli Street animals? I am sure they were rescued from a great many situations.
I don’t think I mentioned South Africa. Otherwise, I’d reply in more detail if I understood what point you are attempting to make.
your spot on Lawrence, theres plenty of the sanctimonious virtue signalling on display in the british MSM and on this board. the moral contortions that can lead someone to believe a dogs life is more worthy of saving than a human being is beyond me. Easy for them to say from the comfort of their sofas watching on TV, very different for the families watching from the airstrip as the last flight leaves Kabul.
The sanctimonious virtue signalling is all yours . Kindly own it
no Alan , i’m afraid you win that award for this comment:
Alan Osband “Don’t ruin their virtue signalling . Every saved animal must have cost the life of a dear little child .”
which managed to be both psychopathic and sanctimonious. Children were killed attempting to get on those planes, what is wrong with you?
I take some small comfort that 99.9% of the people who are getting righteous about the lives of the animals have never had to face such a difficult decision in their lives, and perhaps never will.
Difficult decisions such as deciding who gets into an airport and evacuated and who doesn’t. Who lives and who dies.
I sincerely doubt that the armchair animal rights veterans would be so prosaic if any of their friends or family didn’t make it to the airport due to the sheer volume of people trying to get out, but that a few stray dogs did.
“Goodness knows what the Afghans waiting outside the airport gates in the sewage, dried blood and detritus of bomb blasts must think.“
I hope they are not blaming any foreigners for the bombing. That’s not on us. However it seems that whatever the West does is wrong. The US drone strike on the latest suspected suicide bomber is being condemned because a civilian family died in the explosion. Ten people are dead in total, some of them completely innocent children. Should the US have let the suicide bombing proceed at the cost of maybe ten times that number of innocent people killed? Should public opinion, or even the Twitterati, make these important decisions?
There are plenty of blond-haired Afghans; whether they are cute and waiting outside the airport to be airlifted to wherever is debatable. Do you think all Afghans are the opposite of your description?
I know that, Chris. I’ve worked several years in that part of the world. You miss my point entirely. Why weren’t Afghans evacuated – white, brown, black (who cares??) – instead of dogs? Are dogs worth more than humans? It seems so.
You make a binary argument and that isn’t what this is about. Are you suggesting that every single Afghan should have been shipped out before any other consideration?
A lot of focus has been on space on the planes out of Kabul – which is frankly irrelevant.
When people have been crushed to death outside the airport from a sheer mass of people trying to get accepted and evacuated, it seems absolute lunacy that we should be applauding this effort to get animals out.
300 or so animals coming through in vehicles and the such, all the whilst soldiers are trying to keep the peace, look out for genuine threats and trying to save people getting crushed to death is the height of idiocy.
It’s irrelevant that he had paid for it, or that he’s doing it with his heart. Doing something stupid with all your passion and commitment doesn’t make it less stupid.
He might have paid for the plane or the paperwork – but he isn’t paying for the airport, the security perimeter, the lives of those enforcing it. He’s also not paying for the congestion and complications that his charade will have caused.
‘Twas ever thus.
The RSPCA was founded in 1824.
Sixty years later the NSPCC was founded in 1884.
(For readers outside Britain, these charities are for the prevention of cruelty to first animals, and second children).
For the record, you needn’t go as far as Afghanistan to find a very different attitude to the treatment of pet animals (leaving farming aside), just cross the Channel.
“The greatness of a nation and its moral progress can be judged by the way its animals are treated.”
― Mahatma Gandhi
But that’s not quite what Gandhi meant by that. He is pointing out that a civilised society should also look after its animals – it’s the luxury afforded by civilisation. Kabul in the last 2 weeks has been anything but civilised.
I have seen nobody denying that these poor animals don’t deserve better or that in an ideal world we wouldn’t help them.
But when it comes down to it it’s lunacy to suggest that animal lives are more important than humans.
Would you rather save your pet over your mother, husband or sister? Or a close friend? Or a colleague at work? What is your line of distinction here?
If the answers yes, then you are at least morally consistent. If not it’s just empty words.
Sorry to aim at you personally – just felt it was a distinction worth making
Would I choose my animal over my brother? No. Would I choose my animal over some random person who might actually be a jihadi? Probably. But of course this is not a binary choice. We can look after humans and animals – each to his own. As an individual choice this man (a hero in my eyes), is motivated to help animals, created a shelter and he carried through with his charges. Actually a superhero, as animals are most often the forgotten ones.
A great pity that people seem to ignore that the animals were carried as freight in the hold and there was place for passengers that he could not fill.
No completely agreed that it’s not a binary choice – but that’s the point. You’re having your cake and eating it there.
Firstly it’s not random jihadis – the difficulty is discerning who is a legitimate refugee/who is at risk and who is not – and all the shades in between. Night and day the soldiers were on the barricades trying to determine just that with thousands upon thousands of people trying to get through.
Meanwhile they are interrupted by some well-meaning but foolish guy trying to get animals through.
Secondly – aligned to the first – is that it’s not about space on aircraft, but the security situation at the perimeter. That is what is resource intensive and dangerous – many people were crushed to death. The 20 year old 2 Para lad who spent the last day shifting bodies and identifying them before going back to hold the line is hardly going to be sympathetic to some stray dogs, and nor should he be.
It was designed to provoke. Your frankly mediocre argument and the argument of others on this page ultimately comes down to the position that until every human on God’s green earth is fine and dandy, no-one should put any effort into the lot of animals.
Prioritising human lives in a war zone evacuation is a mediocre argument?!
Resources and time in this evacuation were finite, of those finite resources a portion was directed away from evacuating people to evacuating dogs. People who will be killed by the Taliban have been left stranded in Kabul who would otherwise have been evacuated, how many people could that dog plane hold 100 people – 200 people?
Lesley Perhaps you can explain the moral mathematics you are making to explain why any amount of dogs is worth more than a plane load of human lives?
Explain to us your reasoning of why the value of a dogs life is greater than a mans, womens, or childs
Putting the animals through the ordeal that they had to go through to bring them back to Britain was not a humane thing to do. He admits that five cats died in transit; alone and in their own filth in a crate in the hold of a plane. Regardless of whether humans could have travelled in their stead, and information about that is conflicting, if the vets and pharmaceuticals were available, euthanising the animals at the refuge would have been the most humane thing to do.
His agenda was not the animals. It was his own personal issues with the MOD.
And after all these years his remark still applies to the world….
“The fundamental cause of the trouble is that in the modern world the stupid are cocksure while the intelligent are full of doubt.”
What a strange thing to be getting upset about. There will be no reason for regretting the evacuation of this man and his animals. For one thing it seems very unlikely that the female staff that his charity sponsored to train as veterinarian surgeons and veterinary nurses would have had any claim to leave Afghanistan but for the efforts of the charity in getting them visas. They were forced to leave the airport on Thursday after the bombing, having got so close to leaving. It really isn’t Pen Farthing’s fault that this happened, or that ultimately those women were left behind.
As for loading some crates of animals on to a plane, I would imagine that took a lot less time than checking thousands of individual people’s paperwork or searching their clothes for explosive devices before boarding them. The two are hardly comparable.
A lot of people think that any animal is worth less than any person. I would suggest that the military service dogs used by the US army to sniff out explosives are each worth many, many times more than the piece of human detritus who blew himself and 170 other people up last week, and his deranged ilk. Maybe all the military service dogs should have been left to die at Kabul airport while their handlers got on the plane without them?
every second and resource should have been devoted to evacuating human beings, there are still people in Kabul who wanted and attempted to get out and didn’t, but some dogs were prioritised and they did. When the Taliban catch up with those people, they will have died so that dogs could live.
Animals lives are worth less than human lives.
“Maybe all the military service dogs should have been left to die at Kabul airport while their handlers got on the plane without them?”
that’s exactly what should have happened.
Then you’ll be very upset to know that the military dogs and their handlers were evacuated about two weeks ago and that the dogs sat in the cabin of the plane, alongside their handlers, and were not put in the hold like the rescue animals. I doubt that all the people whose lives were saved by the efforts of these highly trained animals would agree that they are worth less than a suicide bomber.
In Kabul there are human beings who could have been evacuated, they watched a flight leave which had dogs on it and not themselves, there are no more flights leaving Kabul. The Taliban will kill some of these people. You find it moral that this happened, i find it abhorrent
A WHO plane has arrived at Kabul this evening, loaded with medical supplies. Do you think the remaining US soldiers should help unload it, or would that be immoral because ‘every second and resource’ should be devoted to evacuating human beings?
What has that WHO flight got to do with a sack of spanners? Julia H you believe a dogs life is more worthy of saving than a human beings, that is an abhorrent belief. Human beings in Kabul will be killed by the Taliban because time and resources were directed at dogs instead of getting people evacuated. your attempt at deflection here is transparent, your not in a position to lecture anyone on morality,
George, I’m finding it almost impossible to believe how so many writers here put animals before people, like Julia H.
Is it just dogs and cats, as many people are attached to their pets, or something else? What about an airlift of bunny-rabbits? Probably, as they are cuddly and cute. How about a cage of sewer rats? Probably not. Donkeys? Maybe. Cockroaches? Wherever you draw the line in the animal kingdom, humans seem to be near the bottom.
Yes this is a key point.
Part of me agrees – I love animals and I love that the UK in general values this and is a nation of animal lovers.
However it is mostly utterly irrational as we have collectively sub-categorised some animals as having value above others – through no truly logical merit other than that some are cute and to be protected, others we care not a bit for.
And when we start valuing the lives of pets above actual humans it makes me wonder. People seem to be more ready to identify with another pet unknown to them – empathise – than with another human being
I would wager that it takes a lot of time and money to train those dogs which is why they got taken away, rather than because of any sentimentality
“Animals lives are worth less than human lives”
This is an over-simplistic generalisation, that is often used by business to justify activities like testing all kinds of things on sentient creatures, as well as some dreadful farming methods.
There is obviously a case to be made for prioritising the humans in this situation, but its best made without that statement.
We were on the second last evacuation flight from Teheran in February 1979 by the US military. Must say they were great and very well organised. They took all the pets too and not in the hold. The C5 was far from comfortable but when we got to Athens they had arranged hotels to take pets, a vet at the airport and some cash, it was very difficult to get hard currency before we left. I don’t know why they couldn’t do that in Afghanistan in the weeks before they were due to leave rather than the terrible crush we saw.
Question for Henry Hill in two parts: 1) Aside from the 150+ people who didn’t get to leave Afghanistan because they were blown up by a suicide bomber at the airport, how many more people do you think weren’t processed in time because of the disruption caused by this atrocity 2) In view of this, why are you focussed on a British charity worker and the effect of his activities on the number of people able to leave Afghanistan?
As far as I understand it the animals were in the hold and the extra plane provided space for more evacuees so I really can’t see the big deal here.
Besides, I prefer animals to people so I’m happy a few were saved. People are mostly a blight wherever they go and we ain’t running out of ’em any time soon.
Don’t ruin their virtue signalling . Every saved animal must have cost the life of a dear little child .
Alan, are these the dead children you are flippantly joking about?
Team pets all the way. This man is doing what is in his heart and we need more like him.
I also read that he had space for refugees as the animals were in the hold, but they could not be processed.
So sick of the poor treatment of animals by the ever growing population of greedy grasping people.
You had 5 down votes! Lots of hatyers out there. The people above all are working on the ‘Zero Sum Game’ theory, and anyone with any brains know that was not really it, it is not that simple. They want to play ‘What If’ by re-writing the past to what they wish – well it never works that way, what is, is, and unless you can point to malevolent intent then they are merely getting into a self righteous anger, SJW like. How many refugees are you down voters re-housing?
They are in the main anti the refugees, considering the most frequent comments here. Suddenly they are animal haters.
I was pro the valid refugees, but took pause when someone posted this link in the past few days. It is shocking and written by a person well versed in working with communities and refugees. More blood on Biden’s hands as he did not allow enough time for people to be processed properly and with care not to let the bad and the broken in. As things stand, I think there will be trouble.
Accepting many Afghani refugees is not a good thing for the West. I admire them, but still do not think they will be a positive – and it is the absolute duty of every nation to use their border to protect their citizens over all other considerations.
I agree with you. As far as I’m concerned animals are better than most people. They’re not the ones blowing people up, blindly following medieval religions or cutting bits off their daughters to keep them ‘pure’.
Tis truly bizarre all this fuss about a few pets when 70 billion animals and birds are being kept in concentration camps to be killed right now !!!!!!!!!!!!! – and the pet lobby are happy to eat meat 7 days a week. The lack of perspective about this is truly gobsmacking – talk about cognitive dissonance 🙁
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