Boris Johnson says it's 'total rhubarb' to suggest he was involved with evacuation of animals from Kabul

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Prime Minister Boris Johnson. Rob Pinney/Getty Images
Prime Minister Boris Johnson. Rob Pinney/Getty Images
  • Emails published this week showed Johnson intervened to ensure the evacuation of 170 animals from Kabul last year.
  • The move was widely criticised given the number of needy Afghans who were desperate to leave.
  • Johnson denied his involvement in the evacuation effort on Thursday, saying it was "total rhubarb."
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Boris Johnson said it was "total rhubarb" to suggest he had any personal involvement with the evacuation of animals from Kabul last year.

The prime minister has repeatedly denied his involvement in the August 2021 effort, which saw the UK government organise the evacuation of 170 cats and dogs housed in Nowzad, a rescue centre run by the former Marine Pen Farthing.

But an internal email published on Wednesday appeared to contradict the denials, the first of which was in August.

Johnson denied his involvement again on Thursday, telling ITV News: "This whole thing is total rhubarb. I was very proud of what our armed services did with Op Pitting [the UK's evacuation effort from Kabul last year]."

Asked if he had any personal involvement with Farthing's case, he said: "Absolutely not. The military always prioritised human beings and that was quite right. I think we should be incredibly proud of Op Pitting."

The email published on Wednesday, which appeared to contradict Johnson's claims, was sent by a Foreign, Commonwealth and Development Office official to colleagues. It read: "Nowzad, run by an ex-Royal Marine, has received a lot of publicity and the PM has just authorised their staff and animals to be evacuated."

The prime minister's spokesperson on Wednesday denied the prime minister had any involvement with the case.

The spokesperson said he "didn't instruct any official to take any particular course of action," though said he had not yet seen the emails at the time.

The evacuation of the animals generated significant controversy at the time because it raised questions as to why the most vulnerable Afghan citizens were not able to board the charter flight for the animals and Nowzad charity workers.

Raphael Marshall, a former FCDO worker, alleged last year that the decision to evacuate the Nowzad animals had represented a "direct trade-off" with human lives.

Marshall had supplied the emails to the Foreign Affairs committee suggesting the prime minister had authorised the evacuation.

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