Monday, October 10, 2016
Between Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur, makeshift chicken coops appear on the streets and sidewalks of Hasidic Brooklyn neighborhoods like Borough Park and Williamsburg, dedicated to the ritual sacrifice of chickens for atonement in a centuries old practice known as kapparot, or kaporos.
After campaigning against the practice for years, the Alliance to End Chickens as Kaporos has redoubled its efforts against the ritual in a quarter page open letter to New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio, printed as an ad in the New York Times on Tuesday.
Running in the front section of the Times, the ad denounces a "bloodbath" that claims the lives of 50,000 chickens and occurs in "unregulated, makeshift slaughterhouses in Brooklyn streets and sidewalks in the days prior to Yom Kippur."
Paid for by the Alliance, and its parent organization, the animal rights advocacy group United Poultry Concerns, the letter alleges the practice violates city and statutes on health, safety, and treatment of animals. It also charges that the city abets the ritual by "providing the practitioners with police protection, barricades, and orange cones that are used to bleed out birds whose throats have been cut."
During the ritual, the worshipper swings a chicken over his head while reciting a prayer that asks for the remission of one's sins. The chicken is then supposed to be slaughtered, with its meat donated to families in need.
According to Karen Davis, head of United Poultry Concerns, kapparot is practiced in a messy and cruel manner in the Brooklyn neighborhoods where it occurs. Additionally, she claims, it's not even a necessary measure to atone before Yom Kippur.
"There's no middle ground, but a radical ground on this issue," said Davis, who wants the total abolition of chickens' use as kapparot, rather than measures that purport to make this more humane. "They hold them by the wings, which isn't natural for a chicken. It's the ultimate expression of the callousness of this entire practice."
She added that Jewish law, or halakha, does not require the use of chickens as kapparot, and that this is a matter of custom. Ultimately, she said, "the city needs to stop condoning this and enforce the laws on the books."
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