Sword of Damocles over minks

Breeding of fur animals provides thousands of jobs, millions in revenue
and an important part of the Polish export.

What is going to be the future of the fur animal breeding sector? Will the rapidly growing branch of the Polish agriculture be closed, or be able to continue develop its potential? This and other questions were discussed by a debate organised
by “Rzeczpospolita”, business and economics daily, on “Fur Animal Sector – challenges and prospects”.

A handful of figures and facts

Poland is one of leading producers of pelts in Europe and in the world. Poland’s annual production as much as 14% to the total global production. This makes Poland second in Europe, with Denmark taking the lead, and third in the world.

About 10 thousand people work directly for farms and additional 40 thousand are employed by suppliers of animal feed and fuel, said Kamil Chojnicki, Deputy President of Board at the Polish Fur Breeders’ Association. Those 1.2 thousand legally operating farms in Poland produce pelts, 90% of which are exported.
The value of the export is about EUR 400 m a year, which is 2% of total Polish export of the agri-food sector
, added Chojnicki.

What would be the consequences of introducing the law prohibiting the breeding
of fur animals in Poland?

At the macroeconomic scale, it would be a loss for the state budget of about
PLN 300 m a year provided by the sector in taxes and other charges
, said Jakub Olipra, economist in Credit Agricole Bank Polska.

It would cause the increase in unemployment, primarily for Westpomeranian and Wielkopolskie Regions, since the majority of companies of the sector operate
in the two regions. Additionally, rural areas and people of the lowest qualifications would suffer because of the unemployment, since fur farms are the main employers for such people,
said Jakub Olipra.

The legislator need to understand that the majority of breeders operate based
on bank loans often secured with their all assets, i.e. farms.

Such a ban would practically erase Poland from the international fur animal breeders market, and the restoring of the current growing potential, should the ban be lifted, would not be possible in a short time, added Olipra.

Sword of Damocles

Recently, the threat of the ban has become real due to the draft law developed
by MPs from the Parliamentary Animal Friends Group. The draft should be ready soon, and it is going to be filed with the house speaker shortly after Easter.

The threat of the ban is hanging over the sector like the sword of Damocles, said Robert Krupowicz, the Mayor of Goleniów (Westpomeranian Region).

Considering that so many fur farms and their suppliers are based in my municipality the decision to adopt the law would only mean loss: growth in unemployment, which thanks to the farms is now at only 3%, and the loss of a handsome revenue, since farms and related companies provide PLN 2.3 m through property tax, transport tax, and corporate tax, said the Mayor of Goleniów. He also added that closing the farms would hit also other branches of agriculture, mainly those connected to poultry
and fish production.

Fur farms are the main disposal companies for waste generated by those companies, said Krupowicz.

Once they are closed, waste will have to undergo industrial disposal. This will generate additional cost which ultimately will be shifted to consumers, explained member of the local government.

The draft developed by the Parliamentary Animal Friends Group is the result of our society become sensitive to animal welfare.

I am afraid, however, that the total ban of breeding fur animals will stay in conflict with the Polish constitution, said Michał Jabłoński, the Foundation of Law
and Economy Laboratory.

Such a ban would infringe one of basic freedoms specified in the Constitution, namely the freedom of business, but it would also not pass the constitutional proportionality test. I believe that the introduction of the ban would be a hypocrisy, since possessing and trading in fur from animals bred or clothes made of it would remain legal, said Jabłoński. He added that perhaps the legislator should first draft regulations improving animal welfare. Especially those that could eliminate illegal farms from the market, said Jabłoński.

Inefficient inspection

The breeding sector has been a subject of inspection by the Supreme Chamber
of Control. According to findings, it is not insufficient regulation of the sector
but unsatisfactory law enforcement by state agencies, primarily veterinary inspections responsible for monitoring this sector.

This has been the main source of negligence and fraud, since there is no direct link between breaching of regulations and imposing penalties, said Michał Jabłoński.

Clear majority, about 95% of legally operating farms meet all requirements set
by the law, both domestic and EU,
said Andrzej Jakubczak, Lublin University of Life Sciences. This has been proved by surveys on fur animal welfare that have been implemented since 2009, he added.

Global trends also have their influence on conditions of breeding.

Nowadays, clients want to be sure that animals providing pelts were kept in good conditions, said Andrzej Jakubczak.

For this reason, three largest fur exchanges signed an agreement that from 2020 they will buy pelts from certified producers. In Poland, certification audits started in 2017, those companies that fail the audit will have to stop operating, said Jakubczak.

Prohibit or not

Participants to the debate agreed that imposing of the ban would put an end
to a rapidly growing sector of the economy. Thus, it would be unjustified
from the economic point of view and doubtful as regards the Constitution.

Moreover, the ban was introduced in countries where the sector was almost
non-existent. It is little probable that such a regulation could improve welfare
of animals that are kept in poor conditions by illegal breeders.

The survey by IPSOS commissioned by Fur Europe showed that 73% of Poles supports the breeding of fur animals provided producers take due care of animal welfare and comply with the law.


Michał Cyrankiewicz „Rzeczpospolita”