The Ministry of Defence today hit back against criticism from allies of animal charity boss Pen Farthing after footage emerged of a car being airlifted out of Kabul, as an official insisted it had been filled with cargo rather than more passengers so it could meet its time slot

The Ministry of Defence today hit back against criticism from allies of animal charity boss Pen Farthing after footage emerged of a car being airlifted out of Kabul, as an official insisted it had been filled with cargo rather than more passengers so it could meet its time slot. 

The ex-Royal Marine was rebuked by Ben Wallace this morning for complaining UK forces were stopping his private charter plane from taking his staff and rescue dogs out of Kabul, with the politician saying he would not ‘prioritise pets over people’. 

But a Sky News video of a Vauxhall hatchback entering a military cargo jet prompted a counter-blast from animal rights activists including the comedian Ricky Gervais and actor Peter Egan, who accused the MoD of caring more about a car than ‘sentient animals. 

In response to the anger, an MOD source said today: ‘The car was a civilian armoured vehicle (probably part of the UK Embassy fleet).

‘Priority on all flights is given to passengers, but flights have to take off in their allocated time-slot free credit to keep traffic moving, so on the flight featured by Sky, there were 134 people processed at the time allocated for take-off, and because that left some room, it was filled with cargo, including the car.’

Mr Gervais wrote in response to the video: ‘@PenFarthing is brave and kind.Such honour should be rewarded. He’s still trying to save others in the face of grave danger. He shouldn’t be left behind. And they rescued a f*****g car? Shame.’ 

Actor Peter Egan added: ‘Can it be possible that ⁦@BWallaceMP⁩ is ok about airlifting a car but not sentient animals!!’ 

Mr Farthing, 52, has complained about being ‘left to fend for myself’ after organising the flight for his 25 Afghan staff as well as the charity’s dogs and cats.He announced the  granted visas for all of his staff and their dependents.

But Mr Wallace – himself a former soldier – told LBC that Mr Farthing’s claim about being abandoned by the MoD was ‘b******s’.

In a round of interviews, the clearly frustrated politician said that while the animal charity boss had done ‘amazing’ work, all the plane would achieve if it landed in Kabul was to ‘block the airfield’ and ‘sit there empty’.

‘There is a confusion, I am afraid some of the campaigners have latched on to the fact they have chartered a plane, as if this somehow is the magic wand,’ he said. 

‘The magic wand is whether people can get through Kabul through the Taliban checkpoints and then through the 3,000-plus people, some of whom are waiting in front of the queue because they are under real threat, direct threat right now from the Taliban.’

He added: ‘I am not prepared to prioritise, for example, pets over people.’ 

Mr Wallace said that Mr Farthing himself could get through the gates and his staff were entitled to refuge in the UK, but he could not ‘guarantee’ they would be airlifted ‘in this window’.   

But a video of the Vauxhall entering the cargo jet prompted comedian Ricky Gervais to tweet: ‘Urgent: @PenFarthing is brave and kind.Such honour should be rewarded. He’s still trying to save others in the face of grave danger. He shouldn’t be left behind. And they rescued a f*****g car? Shame. #OperationArk’

Actor Peter Egan added: ‘Can it be possible that ⁦@BWallaceMP⁩ is ok about airlifting a car but not sentient animals!!’

Paul ‘Pen’ Farthing, 52, said he has been ‘left to fend for myself’ after the MoD allegedly stopped his privately rented plane from taking off

Defence Secretary Ben Wallace insisted he will not ‘prioritise pets over people’ in the evacuation 

Pen Farthing is founder of the Nowzad charity which he set up after befriending a stray dog while serving in Helmand in 2006

Former Royal Marine Commando Pen Farthing has been working with his Norwegian wife Kaisa Helene (above) and their team in Kabul

Mr Farthing with dogs RPG and Jena, who were destined to die from starvation or dog fights in Afghanistan until he stepped in

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Celebrities including actor Ricky Gervais and Dragons Den star Deborah Meaden, who back the Nowzad charity, today slammed the Government’s attitude towards evacuating animals

An MoD spokesman said: ‘We are aware of reports around vehicles being loaded onto flights leaving Afghanistan. ‘Cleared passengers are always loaded as an absolute priority and any spare capacity is used for operational freight.No flight has left Kabul empty.

‘In the last 24 hours, 9 flights have left with over 1800 people on board.’  

Celebrities including actor Mr Gervais and Dragons Den star Deborah Meaden, who back the Nowzad charity, today slammed the Government’s attitude towards evacuating animals. 

Writing on Twitter, Gervais said: ‘Dear stupid c**ts saying we shouldn’t put animals before people..1. The animals go in the hold where people can’t go. 2. This is an extra, privately funded plane that will allow MORE people to be saved. #OperationArk’.

Meaden added: ‘So.. Pete Quentin (Tory candidate for Camberwell and Peckham) why on Earth would you put these lives at risk?Everything arranged and you pull it??? Are we dithering with peoples lives @PenFarthing #nowzad #operationark’. 

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