Brussels 18.09.2020 Poland’s governing alliance appeared to be in disarray on September 18, as a dispute over animal rights measures highlighted divisions in the ruling camp, raising the possibility of early elections if differences cannot be resolved.
Tensions within the alliance led by the nationalist Law and Justice (PiS) party came into the open after some members did not support the measures, which passed in parliament with opposition support.
The dispute over changes to animal rights laws, which are seen as an appeal to younger voters, halted talks on overhauling ministries and raised risks of problems for the coalition.
The new rules, which would ban fur farming and curb the slaughter of animals, were opposed by all lawmakers from the ultra-conservative United Poland party, some other lawmakers in doubt have abstained.The legislation aligns situation with the Lisbon Treaty of EU, stating that animals are “sentient beings” and animal welfare is a European value.
PiS lawmaker and Agriculture Minister Jan Krzysztof Ardanowski, who had openly criticized the bill, voted against it.
Opponents of the bill within the ruling alliance said it would alienate voters in PiS’s rural heartlands and hurt farmers.
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, with 2017 shipments of more than 70,000 tons.
“Negotiations … have been suspended due to the situation we have in the Sejm,” or parliament, PiS lawmaker and Deputy Parliament Speaker Ryszard Terlecki said before the vote.
Asked about ruling as a minority government, Terlecki said this would not be possible.
“If that happens, we’ll go to elections. Alone, of course.”
In 2007, PiS decided to go for early elections and lost power, making the party well aware of the risks of such a move.
Back in 1991, Compassion in World Farming NGO submitted a petition to the European Parliament, calling for animals to be recognised as sentient beings, capable of suffering. This was accepted as a ‘Treaty declaration’ which is not legally binding, but nonetheless a significant first step. Then, in 1997 with the Treaty of Amsterdam, it became a Protocol, with legal status. The new Lisbon Treaty, in force from December 1st 2009, includes animal sentience as an Article, meaning that recognition of animal sentience is now in the main body of the Treaty and carries considerably more weight.