Hundreds protest in Poland against proposal to ban fur breeding

WARSAW, Sept 16 (Reuters) - Hundreds of protesters angered by the Polish government’s plan to ban the breeding of animals for fur gathered on Wednesday in front of the headquarters of the ruling nationalist Law and Justice (PiS) party, where they were met by a line of police.

PiS head Jaroslaw Kaczynski submitted a bill proposing a ban on breeding animals for fur with the exception of rabbits last week, citing animal welfare as the reason. Poland’s lower house of parliament, the Sejm, is due to debate the bill later on Wednesday.

Its opponents say such a ban would cause a number of farms to go bankrupt. Poland produces millions of furs a year, and the sector employs around 50,000 people.

“Kaczynski: traitor to farmers,” the crowd chanted outside the building in central Warsaw.

The proposed ban is causing divisions in the government. Agriculture Minister and PiS member Jan Ardanowski has sent a letter to his party colleagues in which he warned that the bill would discourage rural supporters. PiS’s candidate Andrzej Duda was narrowly re-elected in July as president, in large part thanks to rural votes.

“PiS’s image losses will be permanent and very difficult to reverse, impossible to compensate by any means before the next elections,” Ardanowski’s letter was quoted as saying by portal.

Asked about the minister’s letter, the Sejm speaker Elzbieta Witek told reporters: “There will be a debate in the Sejm, and I think that this is the parliament where the political debate should be held.”

The PiS-led coalition holds 235 of the Sejm’s 460 seats. Its aim is for the ban to enter into force within one year. (Reporting by Marcin Goclowski; Additional reporting by Pawel Florkiewicz Editing by Raissa Kasolowsky)