Ruling on animal law will reflect welfare of animals and farmers - president

President Andrzej Duda said on Sunday that in his decision on a new animal rights protection law he will take into account the welfare of both animals and farmers.

Speaking at a harvest festival ceremony at the Presidential Palace in Warsaw, Duda said he promised farmers that he will take their welfare into account in his final ruling on the act which, among others, bans fur farming and exports of ritual slaughter meat.

The new laws have evoked strong protests from farmers, who say the regulations, authored by Poland's ruling party Law and Justice (PiS), will substantially undermine their subsistence.

"In taking a decision on the animal protection act, I will be mindful of their humane treatment, but also take into consideration the welfare of Polish farmers. This I promise to farmers," Duda said.

Referring to the ongoing debate around the laws, Duda said it contained many untruths and false accusations, especially "by people who know nothing about agriculture (...) and have never seen how animals are bred."

Commenting on criticism of animal breeding conditions in Poland forwarded by opponents of the new laws, Duda emphasised that assurance of the best possible conditions for their livestock was of fundamental importance for breeders.

Duda said that for true animal breeders it is "a question of their reason for being that these animals are treated well and live in the best possible conditions, so that they bring the best possible income, because that is what they are bred for."

He added that he was very concerned about the welfare and humanitarian treatment of animals, but stressed that the welfare of farmers came first. "And this should be kept in mind in the course of all (...) parliamentary proceedings," he observed.

"From this place, I promise Polish farmers (...) that in my decision I will, of course, pay heed to the humanitarian treatment of animals (...) but also to the welfare and living standards of farmers. I assure you of this," the president said.

Referring to the difficulties faced by agriculture during the coronavirus epidemic, Duda thanked farmers for their efforts "in this very difficult time we have been going through over the past several months," and stated that Poland's agriculture needed continued support.

On Thursday night, the Sejm (lower house) passed amendments to animal protection laws which ban fur farming, exports of ritual slaughter meat, and impose other restriction on animal breeders. Out of 229 members of the ruling United Right coalition, 176 PiS MPs supported the amendments. In all, 38 PiS caucus members voted against, including all MPs of Solidary Poland, a junior member of the ruling United Right coalition, and two members of the Agreement, another junior member of the ruling coalition. Fifteen Agreement members abstained from voting. Agriculture Minister Jan Krzysztof Ardanowski was among those voting against.

The controversies around the laws have caused a severe rift in the United Right alliance, whose future is to be discussed by the PiS leadership on Monday.