Kapparot: Unnecessary Torture of Chickens
I'm sorry, what is the problem with kaparot? The chickens are usually slaughtered and given to the poor. Is it really abusing a chicken to twirl it around your head? I personally think its a silly custom, but I'm not sure why it gets so much static from animal rights activists.
I do indeed think that swinging a rooster or a hen around you in a circle three times is an abusive act. If you wouldn't do it to a dog or a cat, why is it okay to do it to a bird? Then you're killing the animal--all this so that you can pawn off your sins on another living being before passing him or her (but somehow not the transgressed sins?) on to the poor. This article delves into the issue of kapparot in much greater depth: http://www.jewishveg.com/schwartz/kapparot.html.
As for the custom of giving the animal's flesh to the poor, this is covering up for an unnecessary evil:
1) The common substitution of using money instead of live animals is practiced by many Torah-observant Jews, and thus allows you to give at least the "price" of the fowl, if not more, as a charitable donation to the poor. Humane alternative found, problem solved.
2) Too many times, the noble intentions of practitioners to donate food to the poor don't come to fruition, i.e., there is a "surplus" of birds. In The Jewish Press earlier this month, Rabbi Yaakov Klass described horrors at a kapparot ceremony last year: "Someone had set up a 'kaporos' operation on a prominent avenue in my community. The chickens were being slaughtered rapidly on site, and due to the sheer volume, were being thrown into a garbage pail right before my eyes." Perhaps the greatest mishap this year was when the ASPCA had to step in to rescue a couple of hundred chickens ("unused leftovers" from a kapparot ceremony) who had been abandoned to starve to death.
In the post-Temple era, we no longer live in an age of animal sacrifice. Considering that kapparot is not even mentioned in the Torah or the Talmud, there is no Biblical justification for this cruel act. Not causing unnecessary animal suffering (tsa'ar ba'alei chayim) is far more consistent with Jewish teachings. The more cases we see of kapparot observers absolutely disregarding the welfare of thse animals, the more we must doubt the legitimacy of an already ethically suspect ritual.