24 July 2017

Urge Jewish Community to Do Kaporos with Money, Not Chickens

Please join us by signing this petition urging the Orthodox Union, the Rabbinical Council of America, Vaad Harabonim of Flatbush, Agudath Israel of America, and Rabbinical Alliance of America to oppose the use of chickens for Kaporos and encourage Kaporos practitioners to do the ritual with money instead of chickens.



Our plea is prompted by the horrific cruelty to chickens at Kaporos sites year after year in New York City, Los Angeles, New Jersey and everywhere the ritual has been documented. Thousands of chickens are trucked onto city streets from factory farms. They are crammed in transport crates without food or water for as long as four days. They are deprived of shelter from rain, heat and cold. Often their toes and feet are ripped off during the neglectful handling of the transport crates where they sit miserably immobilized in their own feces. Many die in the crates of starvation, dehydration, heat stress, and fear.

What is Kaporos?

Kaporos ("atonements") is a ritual preceding Yom Kippur - the Jewish Day of Atonement - in which chickens are “swung” and slaughtered by certain ultra-orthodox Jewish communities. Practitioners wave the chickens over their heads by the legs or by pinning the bird’s wings backward while reciting a chant about transferring their sins and punishment symbolically onto the bird. The chickens are later slaughtered in the open air and claimed to be given to “the poor.”

The practitioners’ manner of holding the birds by their wings has been condemned by leading veterinarians and animal scientists. For example, Dr. Amir Kashiv, a member of the Royal College of Veterinary Surgeons, wrote that suspending chickens by their wings “places an unnatural tension on ligaments, tendons and bones. Swinging the bird in the air can cause dislocations, tears, ruptures and broken bones. The manner in which chickens are handled during the ritual of Kaporos is, in my view, painful and harmful and thus inhumane.” Dr. Ian Duncan, Professor Emeritus of Poultry Science at the University of Guelph, has explained that suspending chickens by their wings is “extremely painful.”

The mistreatment of the chickens before, during and after the Kaporos ritual, when many are left alive, writhing and crying on the ground, violates the New York State animal cruelty law and desecrates the Torah mandate of Tzaar Balei Chayim, which forbids causing unnecessary pain and suffering to animals. It violates the Talmudic mandate that one must feed one’s animals before feeding oneself.

Despite claims that the chickens are donated to the poor, most are trashed. A 2017 investigation found that at Brooklyn’s largest Kaporos site in Crown Heights, two thirds of the slaughtered chickens were stuffed in plastic trash bags, sometimes while still alive. Local media filmed slaughtered Kaporos chickens being picked up by a company whose employees said the corpses would be turned into biodiesel. Dozens of trash bags full of dead birds were loaded onto the truck. The lack of refrigeration at most Kaporos sites means that the birds cannot legally be used for human consumption regardless.

In light of these facts, many leading rabbis have come out against the use of chickens for Kaporos including some who once used chickens but now use money. They include Rabbi Shlomo Aviner, Rabbi Yitzchock Kaduri, Rabbi Chaim David Halevi, Rabbi Shlomo Zalmen Auerbach, Rabbi Shlomo Goren, Rabbi David Rosen, and Rabbi Gershon Tannenbaum.

Please sign and share this petition urging the Orthodox Union, the Rabbinical Council of America, Vaad Harabonim of Flatbush, Agudath Israel of America, and Rabbinical Alliance of America to join these rabbis by officially opposing the use of chickens for Kaporos and encouraging practitioners to perform the ritual compassionately with money instead of with living creatures.