Fur Flies In Poland Over Animal Rights Law

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Polish fur farmers and kosher meat producers protested in Warsaw on Wednesday against new legislation going through parliament with the support of animal rights groups.

Poland is the world's third biggest fur producer after China and Denmark, according to activists, and a major exporter of kosher meat to Israel and Jewish communities in Europe.

The legislation would ban the breeding of animals for fur -- a major industry in Poland -- and stop exports of halal and kosher meat.

"Poland's standards regarding animals should be no worse, or even better, than those in western countries," Jaroslaw Kaczynski, leader of the governing Law and Justice (PiS) party, said when the legislation was first tabled last week.

Kaczynski, who is known for his love of cats, over the weekend launched the online #stopfurchallenge for people on social media to express their support for the draft amendment.

"In the 21st century, it's possible to look really good without putting on a fur garment," Prime Minister Mateusz Morawiecki said ahead of a parliamentary vote on Wednesday.

Lawmakers later voted down a proposal to scrap the bill and sent it to a parliamentary committee for further consideration.

"In the 21st century, it's possible to look really good without putting on a fur garment," Prime Minister Mateusz Morawiecki said on Twitter ahead of the vote.

Polish Nobel literature laureate Olga Tokarczuk has also appealed for the law to be passed, along with US animal rights campaigners PETA.

Otwarte Klatki (Open Cages), an animal rights group, said there were around 550 fur farms in Poland breeding some 5.2 million animals.

But the proposals have drawn criticism in the countryside -- a key electoral base for the PiS -- and experts quoted by Gazeta Wyborcza said the economic impact would be around 1.6 billion euros ($1.9 billion).

The protesting farmers on Wednesday walked to the PiS headquarters chanting: "Kaczynski, traitor of the countryside!"

Speaking at the rally, Szczepan Wojcik, a prominent fur farmer, said: "You betrayed us, rural Poland -- your voters!"

The Polish Meat Association on Monday said the proposed restrictions on ritual slaughter would have dire consequences for the industry.

"The draft amendment is economically harmful and undermines the social security of many thousands of workers in the meat-processing sector, rural residents and farmers," it said.

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