WARSAW (Reuters) - Poland's ruling Law and Justice (PiS) party defended its plan to ban the breeding of animals for fur on Wednesday in parliament as hundreds of angry protesters rallied at the party's headquarters.
PiS submitted a bill proposing the ban, which excludes rabbit fur, and party head Jaroslaw Kaczynski cited animal welfare as the reason. It is expected to get cross-party support.
"To say we are getting rid of the agricultural branch is not true. No one is banning farmers from raising pigs and cows. This is simply a ban of the inhumane murder of these animals," said PiS member of parliament Marek Suski during a debate in the lower house of parliament, the Sejm.
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 about 50,000 people.
"Kaczynski: traitor to farmers," the protesters chanted outside the building in central Warsaw.
The proposed ban is also causing divisions in the government. Agriculture Minister member Jan Ardanowski has sent a letter to his PiS colleagues warning 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 said, quoted by the Onet.pl portal.
The PiS-led coalition's aim is for the ban to enter into force within one year.
"I have been breeding animals for 10 years now and still have 7 million zloty of debt to repay," protester Jerzy, 45, told private broadcaster TVN24, as he stood alongside protesters carrying Polish flags.
"What is happening here is insane, I wonder if we live in a country which has the rule of law."
(Reporting by Marcin Goclowski, Pawel Florkiewicz, Joanna Plucinska and Alicja Ptak; Editing by Raissa Kasolowsky and Angus MacSwan)