25 August 2021

The Government should ignore Pen Farthing’s pleas and focus on saving people, not animals


Woe betide our government if a single human being ends up getting trapped in Afghanistan and murdered by the Taliban because resources were directed to evacuate the livestock of an animal rescue centre.

Hopefully that doesn’t happen. And if it does turn out that the private chartered plane waiting to rescue Paul ‘Pen’ Farthing and his menagerie has some spare seats for the men and women actually being targeted by the Taliban, so much the better.

But we should not shrink from calling out Farthing’s risible effort at emotional blackmail. Behold this quote topping a recent human interest piece: “I’m loyal to my dogs – so my country has abandoned me to the Taliban in Afghanistan”.

Except his country did no such thing. He and all his staff got visas. The idea that the UK should dedicate scarce resources (and perhaps even risk the lives of military personnel helping people reach the airport) speaks to a truly vast sense of entitlement – also visible in this shrill demand that the British ambassador stop ‘dragging his feet’ because the Nowzad vets “all have job offers”.

This is so much worse than the story of Geronimo the alpaca, which has many of the same elements but infinitely lower stakes. There, the worst outcome is merely the undermining of the UK’s disease-control policy and exporters and the triumph of an unholy alliance between entitled animal lovers and mawkish newspapers. People are getting shot in Afghanistan.

Worse, it speaks to a genuinely warped set of priorities that it was this zoo that has stirred Western donors enough to scrape together the money for an extra flight out of Kabul.

Is the human suffering not enough? Yesterday, comedian Nazar Mohammad was executed. We have footage of him being apprehended by the Taliban. Every day, more videos and pictures emerge of the carnage around Hamid Karzai International Airport. Despite the Government’s efforts, there seems to be a hard time limit on the evacuation before the United States pulls the plug and leaves thousands of people to fend for themselves.

But fear not. Whilst the country grapples with the question of how to house the tens of thousands of Afghan refugees we’re signed up to take – they’re going to need lots of large family homes, which will do fun things to British politics I’m sure – we’re assured that all the animals of Farthing Wood have people ready to take them when they get here.

(While we’re at it, is anyone going to check them for diseases on the way in? Or has Defra got too much on its plate trying to deal with Geronimo?)

Such attitudes towards animals aren’t new, of course. Indeed, you can probably trace the human tendency to behave absurdly over animals back to Caligula putting his horse in the senate. But it rankles in modern Britain because it is just so emblematic of a class of people who are just fundamentally unserious about this country’s long-term prosperity. 

It isn’t just gambling our entire meat export sector against one cute animal. It’s demanding the Government hose hundreds of millions of pounds putting HS2 in a tunnel to spare the Cubbington Pear tree. Or voting Liberal Democrat in Chesham and Amersham, a seat which is pretty much just two tube stations surrounded by fields, because you’re worried the Conservatives might build some houses there.

Or, indeed, protesting against nuclear power, or demanding that the Government adopt an environmental strategy that eschews economic growth. It’s no coincidence, surely, that the majority of people arrested in connection with Extinction Rebellion’s sundry excesses tend to the grey. After all, they basically want the country run on the principles of a retirement community.

So here’s a short manifesto for the young people of Britain: kill the alpaca, save the humans, split the atom, finish the railway, and build the damn houses. Where’s our Saruman when we need him?

Click here to subscribe to our daily briefing – the best pieces from CapX and across the web.

CapX depends on the generosity of its readers. If you value what we do, please consider making a donation.

Henry Hill is News Editor of ConservativeHome.

Columns are the author's own opinion and do not necessarily reflect the views of CapX.