The emotive language of Gaby Hinsliff’s article (What a story to tell the world: Britain values dogs more than Afghan people, 30 August) not only risks deflecting attention from the consequences of the reactive, rather than proactive, response of the British government, but also suggests that one cannot care equally about the victims of humanitarian crises and the plight of other innocent species in manmade conflicts.
Accordingly, “human souls” are pitted against a “menagerie of strays”, whose lives a former soldier in Afghanistan and his Afghan staff valued enough to wish to save at the risk of their own survival. Ms Hinsliff is no doubt correct in noting that cats are “of no conceivable interest to the Taliban”, so what fate does she imagine awaited these animals under the new rulers of the country?
It is important that some people are vocal about the non-human beings with which we share this planet; rather than sentimentality, perhaps this concern is driven by a humanity without anthropocentric self-interest, which is an alternative “story to tell the world about ourselves”.
If Covid and climate change teach us nothing else, it is the vital lesson that we treat other species and the natural world with scant respect at our own peril.
Gaby Hinsliff points out that Britain will be judged on how we respond when those who did not make it out of Kabul reach the UK by other means and claim asylum.
Distressingly, we already know what our response will be. The new borders bill sets out to make the majority of people seeking refuge do so from any country apart from our own. It discriminates between “regular” and “irregular” routes – the latter would include routes taken by any Afghan not eligible for the limited resettlement scheme (and inevitably many of those who are but were not airlifted out).
Since 2010, the UK has removed or deported over 5,000 people back to Afghanistan. It has neither sought to find them or to release other Afghans currently held in immigration centres.
The borders bill throws out our commitment to the 1951 refugee convention. Given the government’s policies, we can expect the Home Office to continue breaching the principle of non-refoulement along with its responsibility under international law to consider asylum claims and welcome those eligible for refugee status.
I was one of many who helped raise awareness of conditions at Napier barracks. By their example, the British government showed asylum seekers’ lives were less important than cats and dogs, when, despite many warnings, 400 asylum seekers were left in harm’s way. I am 100% behind Pen Farthing for his compassion, determination and strength of purpose. What is shaming is this government’s incompetence in planning the evacuation, and prevarication which put many more Afghan lives at real risk.
St Leonards-on-Sea, East Sussex
I respectfully disagree that Pen Farthing’s successful evacuation of animals from Afghanistan shows “the UK holds foreign lives in contempt”. It illustrates how much more could have been done had the politicians had the determination and can-do attitude of this former member of the forces.
Bishop Monkton, North Yorkshire