A former Royal Marine has admitted his emotions “got the better” of him when he left an expletive-laden message for a government aide while trying to evacuate about 170 dogs and cats from an animal shelter in Afghanistan to the UK.
Paul “Pen” Farthing arrived at London’s Heathrow airport in a privately funded charter flight at about 7.30am on Sunday, after his Operation Ark campaign to get workers and animals from the Nowzad shelter in Kabul out of Afghanistan.
A recording, obtained by The Times, captured Farthing berating Peter Quentin, a special adviser to the defence secretary, Ben Wallace, earlier in the week, accusing him of “blocking” efforts to arrange the evacuation flight.
On Monday, Farthing told ITV’s Good Morning Britain: “I’m incredibly embarrassed about my language, I do apologise to everybody who’s listened to that. 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.”
Farthing’s Operation Ark campaign attracted attention on social media but Wallace complained it was distracting from the focus on evacuating the most vulnerable out of Afghanistan.
Wallace previously said Ministry of Defence staff had faced abuse from Farthing’s supporters.
However, Farthing dismissed claims that he was helped by the UK government to get into Kabul airport with his animals. He said: “Nobody in the British government facilitated my entry into that airport – I did that with the Taliban.
“I came up to the British checkpoint, that was the first time – and this is well into the airport, the Taliban and British are stood there, there’s some barbed wire separating them – that was the first time I spoke to any British people.
“So whoever is making any accusations or any comments needs to actually have been stood there on the ground to see how I got into that airport.
“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.”
Farthing added he was the only person on the flight but he was told there was “enough capacity” to get the remaining people in the airport out.
He said: “I was probably like the last person to enter that airport – it was closed. Americans, the British, had obviously stopped taking people in because there had to be a point where they stopped taking people in. So they assured me they had enough capacity for everybody who was inside the airport.”
All of the almost 100 dogs and 70 cats on the flight were “healthy”, with the dogs placed in kennels, according to Dominic Dyer, an animal welfare campaigner and supporter of Farthing.
The Foreign Office minister James Cleverly said the government had prioritised the evacuation of people over pets.
He told LBC Radio: “We have always prioritised evacuating people over evacuating animals. Mr Farthing is a British national, he had the opportunity to leave Afghanistan much earlier. 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.”