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Religious ritual 1, chickens 0

People participate in the Jewish religious holiday of Kaporos in the Brooklyn borough of New York City, on Oct. 9, 2016. Photo courtesy of Reuters/Stephanie Keith

(RNS) A group seeking to end the ritual slaughter of thousands of chickens in New York City’s Brooklyn borough has suffered a legal setback.

The Alliance to End Chickens as Kaporos asked the New York state courts to order local police to enforce public nuisance, safety and health codes to prevent Orthodox Jews from engaging in “kaporot,” the annual ritual slaughter of barnyard chickens.

In a decision on Tuesday (June 6), five New York Supreme Court justices said they could not compel police to enforce laws that require the discretion and personal judgment of officers.

They also reinforced the religious rights of those who practice kaporot.

“(A)lthough they may be upsetting to nonadherents of such (a) practice, the United States Supreme Court has recognized animal sacrifice as a religious sacrament and decided that it is protected under the Free Exercise Clause of the Constitution,” the decision states.

Kaporot is performed in the 10 days between Rosh Hashanah, the Jewish New Year, and Yom Kippur, the Day of Atonement and the most holy day of the year to many Jews. In the ritual, men, women and children swing a white chicken — a sign of purity — above their heads three times as they pray for their sins to be transferred to the chicken.

Then the chicken is slaughtered in a kosher manner by slitting its throat. The meat — or the monetary equivalent — is donated to the poor.

The alliance, a project of United Poultry Concerns, an animal rights organization based in Virginia, has tried for several years to end kaporot, in which it says thousands of chickens die cruelly and violently. The group would like participating Jews to substitute money, as a charitable donation, or a nonanimal object in the ritual.

The alliance has been unsuccessful in preventing kaporot in Southern California, too.

About the author

Kimberly Winston

Kimberly Winston is a freelance religion reporter based in the San Francisco Bay Area.

7 Comments

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  • When your throat’s cut you bleed out very quickly. In fact, that is largely the basis for ritualistic slaughter in the Old Testament. It is a method so swift in nature that it is viewed as a merciful and less painful process to complete the act. As we are called to steward God’s Creation with care and integrity, and it follows that He provided such creatures for our thankful use, I find no objection with the practice or methodology.

  • “In the ritual, men, women and children (and the chick-fil-a cows) swing a chicken above their heads three times as they pray for their sins to be transferred to the chicken.

    Eat mor chiken.

  • Silly, ignorant but a legal expression of their 1st Ammendment rights. Do they at least consume the chickens? If not I find it morally repugnant.

  • The modern Jews are still stuck with the Old Testament rituals. These people should evolve for the betterment of their own faith. They are no better than the Muslims who also practice Kosher and other forms of cruelty. Religion is supposed to enlighten and bring about spirituality to humanity but all of them do nothing to reform their faith and progress towards this end. They would rather stick to these very ancient practices that actually show no compassion to animals. That is why, believers in all the three main the Judeo -Abrahamic faiths (Jewish, Christian and Muslim) still continue these awesomely stupid and horrific practices.

  • The article states that the meat is donated to the poor. Seems like this could be done without swinging them over their heads first, and I’m sure even the needy recipients would prefer chicken that isn’t loaded with someone else’s sins.

  • The commentary restrictions this website imposes are so extreme that it makes it very, very difficult for me to express my views on this matter without either violating them or failing to fully make my own points. But I will try.
    First..the kaporot practice is one participated in by a tiny minority of us Jews…almost all the ultra-orthodox Haredim/Hasidim who are frankly disliked by almost all other Jews and in turn have little to do with the rest of us due to THEIR insular dislike of all of the rest of us.
    Second.. this ancient ritual however should not be interfered with by buttinskys who repeatedly seek to interfere with Jewish religious rituals because of their own crackpot notions of animal rights and holding in consequence that anything at all THEY think inimical to their conception of animal rights is cruelty. They are akin to the other meddlers who, failingly, have sought to legally bar circumcision….which in fact is practiced not just by Jews and Muslims but on a large majority of all American baby boys.
    Third.. the commenters herein who object to this practice of kaporos are, I think, gentiles. If I am right I would strongly commend to them the old and true saying, MIND YOUR OWN BUSINESS.
    Fourth..no neither I nor any of my family have ever practiced kaporos and as I indicated in point one, I’d judge 92% of more of all Jews, including the MODERN Orthodox (not the ultra) don’t and regard it as ridiculous. Believing Jews PRAY during our High Holy Days for the forgiveness of sins..we don’t hurl chickens around our heads.

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