Polish government under fire over draft animal welfare law

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Polish farmers take part in a demonstration against a proposed ban on fur farms and kosher meat exports in Warsaw, Poland, Wednesday, Sept. 16, 2020. (AP Photo/Czarek Sokolowski)

WARSAW – Poland’s governing conservative party has come under fire from its coalition partners and the opposition alike over a draft law that would ban fur farms and the use of animals in shows and circuses, and restrict the ritual slaughter of livestock.

The proposed animal welfare legislation debated in parliament Wednesday has been strongly advocated by the ruling Law and Justice party leader, Jaroslaw Kaczynski, who recently said it brings Poland in line with European Union standards. He added that “all good people” should back it.

But lawmakers from much of the political spectrum — including members of the ruling party’s two junior coalition partners — said the proposed law poses a threat to the key animal farm industry and its thousands of jobs. Many called for it to be withdrawn from debate and reworked.

In a vote late Wednesday, they sent the draft to the parliamentary agriculture commission for fine-tuning.

Poland is among Europe’s leading exporters of fox and mink fur, and of kosher meat.

Agriculture Minister Jan Krzysztof Ardanowski has separately warned that the draft law would further batter a sector already weakened by the effect of the COVID-19 pandemic.

Hundreds of farmers staged a protest Wednesday outside Kaczynski's office and in front of parliament against the proposed tightening of animal rights regulations.

However, the liberal opposition Civic Platform party and left wing lawmakers voiced strong support for the government proposals, which were presented shortly after Polish media aired shocking footage of conditions at one of the country's fur farms.

The proposed law would ban growing animals to be killed for their fur, using them for entertainment and in circuses or keeping them — especially in the case of dogs — in tight confinement or on short chains.

It would also restrict ritual slaughter, only allowing it for the needs of religious groups in Poland, but not for export. Critics say this would deal a severe blow to animal produce exporters, but the government argued it only brings 11 million zlotys ($2.9 million; 2.5 million euros) in tax.

Similar draft legislation by Law and Justice was rejected a few years ago after pressure from the fur farm lobby.