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Poland's ruling party says coalition could collapse over animal rights bill

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WARSAW (Reuters) - Poland’s ruling nationalists warned their coalition partners on Friday that they could end up triggering a new election, after allies refused to support an animal rights bill that bans fur farming and the production of kosher and halal meat for export.

The bill, which has become a major test of unity for a coalition in power since 2015, passed in a late night vote with support from opposition lawmakers. The governing PiS party said its ultra-conservative and moderate allies had put their coalition in jeopardy by failing to back it.

“Yesterday’s decisions led to the situation where we do not know if the coalition exists,” the Prime Minister’s top aide, Michal Dworczyk, told public radio. “A minority government could not stay in power until the end of its term; an early election would be needed.”

The animal rights bill is popular with young Poles, and PiS hopes it will help expand its appeal in urban areas. Opponents within the coalition worry that it will alienate farmers and hurt them in the rural heartlands.

Poland produces millions of furs a year, and the sector employs about 50,000 people. The country is also one of Europe’s biggest exporters of halal and kosher meat.

The PiS-led coalition held onto power in a general election last year, but has since shown signs of fragmenting. PiS has sought to redistribute cabinet posts in a reshuffle, but coalition talks were halted by the animal rights vote.

All lawmakers from the ultra-conservative United Poland party opposed the bill, and most lawmakers from Accord, the ruling camp’s more moderate wing, abstained.

Adam Bielan, a member of the European Parliament from Accord, told the state news agency PAP that it was too early to abandon the coalition.

“One has to wait until emotions calm down and come back to the negotiation table. An early election would lead to the Left taking power.”

Reporting by Marcin Goclowski, Pawel Florkiewicz, Alan Charlish, Anna Koper and Alicja Ptak; Editing by Andrew Cawthorne, Alexandra Hudson, William Mallard and Peter Graff