Taliban presence may close Kabul animal shelter Nowzad. Animals may be euthanised

This is an example of why we must include animals in the conversation about the Taliban taking control of Afghanistan. Pen Farthing is an ex-marine who has had two tours of duty in the Middle East. He is the founder of Nowzad, an animal rescue which reunites military personnel with the animals that they rescued on the frontline. 

Pen Farthing at Nowzad the animal charity and rescue he founded and runs in Kabul
Pen Farthing at Nowzad the animal charity and rescue he founded and runs in Kabul. Photo: Nowzad.

As I understand it, Nowzad ships these animals out to the USA normally where they can be reunited with their human companion after their tour of duty. It's a very expensive operation as you can imagine and Mr Farthing had an amazing ability to raise money to rescue cats and dogs and get them out of Afghanistan into nice homes. It's an invaluable service to the animals and indeed to his 24 employees which include women.

Dr Hamida one of 24 personnel at the shelter
Dr Hamida one of 24 personnel at the shelter. Photo: Nowzad.

You can imagine how Nowzad workers are feeling as just this morning the Taliban took control of Kabul and the rest of the country. They've promised that they won't harm people and that girls can go to school et cetera but who believes them? They constantly carry weapons. They have an incredibly poor track record in terms of human rights. They have demonstrated violent misogynistic behaviour. The women of Kabul are terrified and as mentioned there are several employed by Nowzad. And if their human rights record is crap, how do you think they treat animals?

Mr Farthing is terrified for his staff and the animals. I don't think he can function normally under the Taliban. It would seem likely that he has to close his excellent animal rescue organisation but I sincerely hope that he does not feel that he has to put to sleep all 216 animals comprising 140 dogs, 60 cats, 12 donkeys, two horses, one goat and one bull currently in his care.

Mr Farthing said:

"Were desperately worried and concerned and I think probably now a very real sinking realisation that we may well have to just put all our animals to sleep because that'll be the kindest thing to do.”

He also said:

"We know from prior experience the Taliban don't have much thought for human life, let alone animal welfare."

He has also said:

"The Taliban banned dog ownership when in power last time. And it's just too much of a risk. Never, ever did I want to put dogs to sleep."

One of the female employees appears to be a veterinarian as shown in a photograph is on this page with a puppy. Mr Farthing is shocked at the developments. And he said that he feels ashamed at the turn of events following the decision to pull out US troops. A move followed by allies including British troops. The world is shocked at the speed at which the Taliban have taken control of the country.

What has happened leads us to believe that the past 20 years and $1 trillion of investment into the country has been a complete waste of time. The US and allies have poured money and people into the country to try and change it but all they've achieved is to prop up a weak and ineffective government who have run away as soon as the Allies decided to go home. 

They propped up a shell government and they left behind hundreds of millions of dollars-worth of military equipment which I presume has been seized by the Taliban. The highly trained Afghan military dissolved and disappeared in the face of Taliban with Kalashnikov rifles. It's pathetic, sad and embarrassing.

And now, animal advocates are facing the prospect of 216 animals being put down. It's horrible. And depressing. And what about all the other companion animals in Kabul, for instance? Many people are leaving the city. Are they leaving behind the pets? And the stray and feral animals? What about them? We must remember them and their suffering.

Update: there are calls for the staff to be evacuated to the UK. Mr Farthing will not leave his team of 24 Afghan nationals. There is a campaign to get them to the UK and it is backed by comedian Ricky Gervais's and actors Dame Judi Dench and Peter Egan. They are calling for the entire staff at the shelter to be given British visas. In addition, Nowzad is fundraising to hire a cargo plane to fly out as many of the dogs and cats as possible. It is called Operation Ark. 

Update: The flight was initially blocked by the British government as they did not want animals flying out before humans even though the flight is privately funded. Today, 25th Aug, Wallace the Defense Secretary has relented and will allow the flight to take place and the staff and animals to enter the UK (Sky News). The problem now is that the Taliban has refused Afghanis to leave the country.

The shelter has not only saved the lives of many animals but also educated many people on animal welfare. The staff have worked tirelessly to protect and treat animals in their care. They cannot be left to the Taliban and their murderous ways.

Ricky Gervais's is a patron of Nowzad and he has put his weight behind the campaign and said:

"Pen Farthing and his team Nowzad have done amazing work for over a decade in Kabul, they have saved thousands of dogs and provided work for the local community and instigated educational programmes which have benefited their community. Their lives are now in danger. They need our help now."

Update one day later: In a news conference, the Taliban made all the right noises to try and convince the world that they want a peaceful Islamic state. Let's see if they are genuine.

This video is shocking. WARNING. It shows Afghani nationals falling from a plane that they had clung to. Totally impossible and a certain death. CLICK HERE TO SEE IT ON YOUTUBE. I can't show it here as it may upset Google Adsense.

Update: this is October 10, 2021. You may have heard the news that Mr Farthing managed to get back to England with the animals in a specially chartered plane. There was great difficulty and a lot of stress. But he achieved it. The animals were taken to shelters for quarantine in England. He had to leave the staff behind. Today, the news is that his staff went overland to Pakistan and from Islamabad in Pakistan they have now all managed to fly into the UK during September. 

So he has got his animals and his staff out of Afghanistan which is an enormous achievement. His staff are in the UK to stay and they will forge the new careers in this country. I believe that one or two of them are veterinarians and they will be checked and if necessary retrained to make sure that they comply with UK standards. Then they can work in this country as vets because there is a need for more veterinary surgeons in this country.



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