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Polish parliament passes animal rights law

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Warsaw (AFP)

Poland's parliament on Friday passed an animal rights law that had angered fur farmers and kosher meat producers and divided the country's right-wing governing alliance.

The junior partners in the three-party ruling coalition had refused to vote in favour, provoking the ire of Jaroslaw Kaczynski, the powerful leader of the Law and Justice (PiS) ruling party that put forward the legislation.

Kaczynski, who is known for his love of cats, has threatened to exclude his coalition partners from the government during a planned cabinet shuffle or even call snap elections.

After a marathon session that began hours earlier on Thursday and with the support of the liberal opposition, the legislation passed the lower house of parliament with 356 votes in favour, 75 against and 18 abstentions.

The measure, which still requires the approval of the senate, bans the breeding of animals for fur and stops exports of halal and kosher meat.

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.

"Poland's standards regarding animals should be no worse, or even better, than those in western countries," Kaczynski said last week.

Over the weekend, he launched the online #stopfurchallenge for social media users to express their support for the measure.

"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 had 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 had 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).

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

The Polish Meat Association on Monday said the 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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