Chunnel urged to check rabies

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Indy Politics
Eurotunnel has been asked by the Government to switch back on the Channel Tunnel's main electrified defences against rabid animals reaching Britain along the rail link.

Angela Browning, an Agriculture minister, wrote to the company, which operates the tunnel, to restore the electrified grids at the entrance and exit to the tunnel.

They were switched off because of short-circuits caused by salty water from road spray which dripped off lorries as they were carried through on trains.

The Agriculture minister took up the issue after protests by David Shaw, the MP for Dover, who is campaigning against any liberalisation by the Government of the quarantine controls against.

He warned : "If this goes on for much longer, people must consider closing the Channel Tunnel."

Eurotunnel, which also uses fences, closed-circuit television, sensors and tracker teams to keep animals out of the tunnel, has told the Government there are technical problems in putting the electrified grids back on.

A spokesman for the Ministry of Agriculture said: "Ministry officials are in discussions with Eurotunnel about resolving the problem.

"Even with the grids switched off, there are sufficient measures in place to make sure that no animal with rabies can travel through.

"The grid is still off at the moment but there is a pretty hostile environment for any animal. For any animal to get through would be pretty difficult."

But the issue has highlighted the opposition by Tory MPs with South Coast constituencies to the efforts by Douglas Hogg, the Minister for Agriculture, to introduce more humane anti-rabies measures.

They have been told that the Government has shelved for the general election a proposal to cut the quarantine period from six months to one month.

Ministers backtracked on the plans for "pet passports" after being warned the blood tests for rabies did not work.

The animals which failed tests would have been ordered into kennels near the ports. MPs also said it was impractical, because the ports did not have the capacity to deal with peak traffic in the summer.