Today we take for granted an awareness of environmental matters, but this was not always the case. It could be said that in Britain there was a moment when that environmental consciousness arrived. When in 1963 some farm animals in the parish of Smarden in Kent became sick and died, suspicions fell on a nearby pesticide factory
run by a division of Rentokil Laboratories. The events that followed amounted to one of the first environmental scandals in contemporary British history – one that would galvanise the environmental movement.
It became clear that the factory, a large shed in the middle of farmland, was manufacturing toxic chemicals and that a leak of one of these, fluoroacetamide, led to Britain’s first documented livestock mass poisoning. The incident might have passed by as only a historical footnote, but instead the Smarden leak quickly became a national concern with international implications, and has cast a long shadow across the approach to intensive agriculture
in the UK in the years since.
Part of why this incident had such major repercussions is due to timing, coming as it did at the same time as American writer Rachel Carson’s Silent Spring
was first published in the UK. Seen as the first polemic of the environmental movement, Carson’s book was a significant catalyst to the emergence of modern environmentalism on both sides of the Atlantic....................