Fracking poses risk to UK farm animals and food safety, experts warn
US researchers behind a study that showed links between gas drilling and sickness in livestock say a moratorium should be imposed on fracking in the UK until its impact on food safety can be assessed. Andrew Wasley reports
The painting, propped up hastily on the roadside, depicts an alarming scene: a menacing, dark-haired man about to inject a young woman with an unknown chemical. He has one hand around her neck, the other holds a bright red needle close to her face. The girl has an arm raised up in a last act of self defence — she's trying to protect her hair, pictured sweeping upwards into the brown trunk of a tree, and her dress, depicted as a vast, gushing river.
Above, by way of explanation, a crudely made banner reads: 'A Lethal Injection. Fracking injects toxic & carcinogenic chemicals into the earth. 50 - 70% of this toxic fluid remains in the ground & pollutes the area's water, soil and air.' Further along the road, a larger, vivid-yellow sign hangs between two trees. It says, simply, 'Stop The Fracking Traffic.' Smaller signs with similarly direct slogans have been dug into the ground all along the verge.
Off the road, through a fenceline and across a green field, lies a sizeable clump of woodland. There's oak, ash and yew trees, amongst others. A stream — almost dry at present — runs its way through the wood, straddled in parts by slippery, steep banks. Sheep graze on the nearby grassland, adjacent to a field of smaller, younger-looking trees, more recently planted. Just to the south, in older forest, lies what looks like a lake. In fact it's a large 'furnace' or 'hammer' pond, a left over relic from the 17th and 18th century iron industry which flourished here.
It's quiet — apart from the passing jets on their way to Heathrow or Gatwick. Yet this picturesque spot in the Sussex countryside, just outside Fernhurst, is about to become the new frontline in Britain's escalating conflict over hydraulic fracturing, otherwise known as fracking.
The controversial technique, which involves injecting, at high pressure, a mixture of water, sand and chemicals into the earth to release shale gas, has recently led to large, noisy protests in Balcombe, and - after David Cameron signalled his support for the technology - put the Government on a direct collision course with environmentalists.
Read more at The Ecologist.
Cow image via Shutterstock.