"I've noticed that quite a lot of people who are prominent in the animal liberation movement are Jews. Maybe we are simply not prepared to see the powerful hurting the weak." --Peter Singer (Author, Animal Liberation)


Guest Post: Alliance to End Chickens as Kaporos

The following guest post was written by Rina Deych, a registered nurse, animal activist, and vegan who lives in Brooklyn. She first learned about the use of chickens for kaporos from her Orthodox grandfather, Joseph Levine. Levine was one of the first kosher butchers in Boro Park in the 1920s, and he considered the practice inconsistent with the Jewish mandate not to harm animals.

Kaporos (“atonements”) is a custom preceding Yom Kippur in which chickens are ritually sacrificed by many Orthodox Jews. The person “swings” the chicken, by holding the legs or pinning the bird’s wings backward, around his or her head while chanting about transferring one’s sins symbolically onto the bird. The chicken is then slaughtered and may or may not be given to the poor. Prior to the ceremony, the chickens are packed in crates, and birds not used have been found abandoned in their crates when the ceremony was over.

The Alliance to End Chickens as Kaporos (AECK) seeks to replace chickens in kaporos rituals for three principal reasons:
  • The use of chickens as kaporos is cruel. They suffer in being held with their wings pinned backward, in being swung over the heads of practitioners, and in being packed in crates, often for days without food or water leading up to the ritual, which violates 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 rather a custom that originated in the Middle Ages.
  • There is an acceptable substitute that not only avoids cruelty but also can help reduce hunger and show compassion: Money can be used as a non-animal alternative. 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.
For more information on the custom of Kaporos, please see Jewish Vegetarians of North America president Richard Schwartz's article. Please also see United Poultry Concerns' Karen Davis' excellent resource page as well as AECK's YouTube channel. The AECK Web site, which is under construction, will be EndChickensAsKaporos.com. Please join our Facebook group. If you would like to be added to our mailing list to be informed of our upcoming demo and petition, please email me at rrrina@optonline.net.


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