For background information about kapparot, read last week’s post “Concern for Chickens Used in Kapparot.”
Chicken Rescued From Kapparot, Named Chesed
Farm Sanctuary has taken in a chicken named Chesed (Hebrew for “lovingkindness”), who was rescued from a kapparot ceremony in Crown Heights, Brooklyn, on Saturday night. According to a Farm Sanctuary press release:
At 9:30 p.m., a large truck transporting approximately 2,000 chickens, packed four to a crate, arrived at the seminary. A long line of people waited to purchase chickens for $13 apiece, which they then swung over their heads while reciting a prayer before taking them over to a table where a butcher slit their throats with a knife. Around 11 p.m., a man shoved a chicken into the arms of [Brooklyn resident Wayne] Johnson, who had made it known he did not approve of the inhumane ritual, and told him he could have the bird. Johnson gladly accepted the frightened chicken and took him to his Brooklyn Heights home to await safe transport to Farm Sanctuary’s shelter in upstate New York.
Dr. Allan Kornberg, Farm Sanctuary’s new executive director, commented, “Chesed’s life will serve as a reminder to the thousands of visitors who come to our sanctuary that all life is deserving of mercy and loving-kindness.”
United Poultry Concerns Weighs In
In an op-ed in the Los Angeles Jewish Journal, United Poultry Concerns president Karen Davis wrote:
Documentation of Kapparot ceremonies shows that the birds are seldom if ever treated humanely. On the contrary, prior to the ceremony, the chickens are packed in crates, often for days without food, water or shelter. Birds not used have been found abandoned in their crates when the ceremony was over. Practitioners often stand around chatting with fellow observers while holding a chicken with the wings pulled painfully backward and the legs dangling, as if the bird were an inanimate object instead of living, feeling being. . . .
Shown pictures of chickens being held with their wings pulled back by Kapparot practitioners, Dr. Ian Duncan, Professor Emeritus of Poultry Science at the University of Guelph in Ontario, wrote that "holding a domestic fowl with the wings pinned back as shown will be painful. It will be extremely painful if the bird is held in this position for some minutes."
Debate About Kapparot in the Orthodox Community
NPR had a well-balanced story about the debate over kapparot within the Orthodox community. “The Torah prohibits Jews from causing any unnecessary pain to living creatures, even psychological pain. It says in the Book of Proverbs, ‘The righteous person considers the soul of his or her animal,’” said Brooklyn Rabbi Shlomo Segal, who opposes the use of chickens for kapparot.
NPR also talked about two Orthodox Jews who set up a table with pamphlets and a cage with fake chickens. “We think it's very cruel to the chickens. We're trying to get people to not buy the chickens at all but use money instead,” said one of the activists. The story noted, “For years, [the second activist] has been covering up these posters with his own that show filthy and starving chickens in crates.”
Activists, Rabbis, and Kapparot in Israel
YNet discussed an Israeli animal rights group’s efforts to pressure rabbis to condemn the use of chickens for kapparot. According to the article, a halachic opinion by Rabbi Ovadia Yosef “claimed that Kapporot is only a custom, and, as such, harm to the chickens must be limited or charity should be given in place of slaughtering the fowl.”
The office of Ashkenazi Chief Rabbi Yona Metzger was quoted as saying, "The rabbi has already expressed his opinion countless times that one must have mercy on the chickens, especially during these days of compassion. In addition, the rabbi instructs the slaughterhouse rabbis to tighten oversight (of the slaughterhouses) on the eve of Yom Kippur."