Police Sued by Animal Rights Group for Allowing Cruel Chicken Ritual

During the High Holy Days before Yom Kippur, many Orthodox Jews participate in an atonement ritual called Kapparot. In ancient times, grasping live chickens by their wings, participants would swing the birds over their heads three times to symbolize the transfer of the participant’s sins to the bird. The chickens’ necks were then slashed and they were donated to people in need.

Fortunately, in these much more enlightened times, most participants of this ritual swing bags filled with money over their heads instead of live chickens. However, as incredibly cruel as it sounds, chickens are still used in some Kapparot rituals – including those practiced at the Chabad of Irvine in Southern California.

Although the synagogue says they treat the chickens humanely and don’t kill them, the Animal Protection and Rescue League (APRL), a nonprofit based in San Diego, has filed a lawsuit – but not against the Chabad. Instead, the group is suing the Irvine and Los Angeles police departments for “protecting the illegal killing of animals” by allowing this ritual to be performed at the Chabad of Irvine as well as other locations in Orange County and Los Angeles County.

This isn’t the first time APRL has filed a lawsuit to end the cruel use of live chickens in Kapparot rituals. A recent lawsuit naming the Chabad of Irvine as the defendant alleged that since the synagogue’s members paid Chabad leaders for the chickens, the slaughter was a business act that broke California’s unfair competition law. But an Orange County Superior Court judge rejected the lawsuit three months ago, ruling that the Kapparot ceremony is not a business act but a religious ritual supported by donations.

Bryan Pease, the attorney who represents the APRL and filed the lawsuits, has appealed this ruling. “It remains illegal to kill and discard animals for a religious ritual without using them for food, and we hope local authorities will enforce the law,” he told the Orange County Register in June.

Last week, Pease said the APRL was suing the police departments because “animal-cruelty laws can only be directly enforced by law enforcement. The cities just don’t want to touch this because religions are involved.”

Other animal welfare groups are also working to end the use of live chickens in Kapparot rituals. The Compassionate Kapparot campaign, launched by Expand Animal Rights Now (EARN) and Faith Action for Animals, is ”taking legal action, working with local leaders and activists, and contacting Kapparot practitioners to stop them from continuing the ritual,” according to its website.

Fortunately, many rabbis now denounce the use of live chickens.

“After witnessing years of chickens wallowing in their own feces in small cages waiting to be schechted (slaughtered) for the ritual of Kapparot before Yom Kippur, I gave up on this custom,” Rabbi Yonah Bookstein wrote on the Huffington Post in 2012. “I once was enamored of this ancient ritual whereby the sins of a person are symbolically transferred to the chicken, which is then slaughtered and given to the poor to eat. It was exotic. But no more. I find it reprehensible for Jews to behave this way to animals.”

In the Jewish Journal this month, Rabbi Yonah suggests a much more humane way to perform the Kapparot ritual: Collect at least $18 (the price of a chicken), swing it in a bag over your head, and then donate the cash to help feed people in need in your community.

TAKE ACTION

Here’s how you can help end the cruel practice of using live chickens in the Kapparot ritual:

  • Sign this petition urging the Chabad of Irvine to use coins instead of live chickens.
  • If live chickens are being used in your community, call the police and tell them a ritual slaughter is being performed, which may be illegal. Also contact your state’s department of agriculture and inform them that an unsanitary ritual slaughter is occurring in your locality.
  • Attend a chicken slaughter protest near you, like the one being held in the Los Angeles area Sept. 27 and 28.

Photo credit: By Government Press Office (Israel), CC BY-SA 3.0

128 comments

heather g
heather gabout a month ago

Vile action.

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Kelsey S
Kelsey S2 months ago

Thanks

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Nicole H
Nicole Heindryckx2 months ago

This article really kept me busy. So, I googled, found nothing, and nearly gave up, when I finally found 1 / ONE article mentioning the Kapparot. Only a VERY SMALL NUMBER of Orthodox Jews continue this tradition. Common traditions are : no eating / drinking for 25 hours, except for children under 12 / 13 years, being dressed in white, not wearing leather shoes. No occupation at all except feeding children and sick / elderly ; praying and singing and praying in the Synagogue. One may even not turn on/off the lights. They burn 3 candles, one of which lasts for at least 25 hours. More and more Jews are protesting for years against this animal cruelty, but it all depends on the local Rabbi. They have meetings each year before the Yom Kippur and then it is agreed upon what sacrifice they will do to ask for forgiveness for their sins. Most Rabbi DO NOT ALLOW this Kapparot, but instead money is collected to distribute amongst the poorest. In a very few other places, the money is used to buy a goat, which is butchered the day before Yom Kippur, and the meat is distributed the day before the fasting day. To conclude : It is a disgust that such an article is PUBLISHED for just a couple of 100 people who still practice this tradition and create an opportunity for members to openly express their hate / racism. POOR MEMBERS OF CARE2 !!! SO SO SO SAD !!

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Michelle Spradley
Michelle Spradley2 months ago

If this ritual is as reported it may be time to update the proceeding for 21st century sensibilities.

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Marija M
Marija M2 months ago

tks for sharing

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Aaron F
Past Member 2 months ago

You people need to get your facts straight before you go off on tangents.... Seriously, people! This article is just a hate-mongering load of drek!

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Cathy B
Cathy B2 months ago

Man made traditions which do not line up with the NT. Thank you.

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Anne M
Anne M2 months ago

Argh...

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M s
M s2 months ago

orthodox jews were once tortured You would think they would be greatful and appreciate all that the earth has given them Instead ,they grab live animals by their wings and swing them Don't you think this is PAINFUL? how about TERRIFYING? SHAME on orthodox jews -a very cruel people

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Sheila M
Sheila M2 months ago

1: That the chickens are treated humanely is TOTAL BS. 2: WHY use chickens at all??? How do "atone" for one sin by committing another?

The religious "freedom" refrain is also BS. Religious beliefs do NOT trump LAW.

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