Cats and dogs evacuated from Afghanistan, causing outrage
The charter plane landed at London's Heathrow Airport on Sunday morning. Nowzad, the organization who set up "Operation Ark," confirmed to the BBC that the animals were able to leave Afghanistan with its founder Paul (Pen) Farthing.
Farthing, a British ex-soldier, had previously campaigned for days for the animals to be evacuated from a shelter he founded in the Afghan capital Kabul.
Farthing also wanted to fly out his staff and their relatives. After initial hesitation, he received the support of the British government.
Despite the difficult circumstances, the British government agreed to a time slot for his charter flight, which was financed by supporters, and issued visas. In the end, however, he had to travel without his staff.
Anger at the choice to save animals over human lives
The case sparked fierce controversy in Britain, with Defense Secretary Ben Wallace complaining in interviews that the discussion had taken too long and accusing Nowzad supporters of pressuring his staff.
The Times published an audio message on Sunday in which Farthing allegedly threatened an adviser in the Ministry of Defence with "destroying" him on social media if he did not support him in his bid.
More than 15,000 people were evacuated from Afghanistan in the British rescue operation that ended over the weekend, according to government figures.
However, with up to 1,000 local forces having to be left behind because of time constraints, many British citizens were outraged at the choice to evacuate pets.
According to a survey by polling firm YouGov on Friday, just under half of British citizens (49%) believe that human lives matter more than those of animals. Almost as many (40%) consider the lives of humans and animals to be equally valuable.
Cover photo: IMAGO / Pixsell