Chickens Rescued from Kaporos Rituals Find Sanctuary
Kapparot or kaparos, meaning “atonements,” is a custom in which a chicken or money may be used. Kapparot using chickens is practiced by some Jews shortly before Yom Kippur, the Day of Atonement. It is not widely observed but can most commonly be seen in ultra-orthodox communities where the ceremony is held on public streets. The person swings the chicken around his or her head while chanting a certain prayer, and the belief is that there is a transference of one’s sins symbolically onto the bird.
The exact details of the ceremony vary by region and congregation, but as practiced on public streets in NYC the young birds are either held by the legs or by painfully pinning the bird’s fragile wings together behind their back. The chickens peep loudly in terror and pain, and in some cases their tiny bones break. After the ritual, videos clearly show that the birds then have their throats slit or are stuffed back into their cages until slaughter that evening or the next day, right there on the street (See eyewitness video further down the page). During all of this they do not have access to food or water, and are stacked in cramped cages on the street or in an open truck. >Read more about the ritual and modern alternatives
Woodstock Sanctuary welcomed a flock of very lucky birds who were kindly given to caring activists by a worker with the “poultry” supplier.
Now safe, they are doing great, are full of spunk and have so much personality! Watch this fun video showing them climb all over the cameraman:
In 2013’s ceremony it’s estimated that 2000 chickens died in their crates in the neighborhood of Boro Park, Brooklyn, while awaiting this fate. The NY Daily News reported that these chickens were exposed to temperature extremes without any water or protection. Piled up in crates on the street, they died of starvation, dehydration, exposure, and injury, and then were discarded like trash into garbage bags and dumpsters.
WARNING: GRAPHIC EYEWITNESS VIDEO
A coalition of compassionate people have banded together to promote the use of money, instead of chickens, in the ritual of Kaporos.
The Alliance to End Chickens as Kaporos seeks to replace chickens in kaporos rituals for 3 principal reasons:
- The use of chickens as kaporos is cruel. The birds suffer when being held with their wings pinned backward, swung over the heads of practitioners, and in being packed in crates, often for days without food or water leading up to the ritual. All these actions violate tsa’ar ba’alei chaim, the mandate prohibiting cruelty to animals.
- The use of chickens is not required by Jewish law. It is not a mitzvah but a custom that originated in the middle ages.
- There is an acceptable substitute that not only avoids cruelty but can help reduce hunger and show compassion. Money can be used as a non-animal alternative, and funds raised can be given directly to charities that provide food for the poor and hungry throughout the year, including 13,000 Jewish families living at or below the poverty line in New York City.