25 October 2019

Orthodox Community May Be Growing More Receptive to Our Perspective

By Jill Carnegie, Campaign Strategist, Alliance to End Chickens as Kaporos

Jill Carnegie carrying a chicken

Our coalition of organizations supporting our actions during the rituals is bigger than ever. With Jewish Veg and The Save Movement involved, we also welcomed the Shamayim Animal Advocacy Network, the Interfaith Vegan Coalition, and In Defense of Animals. Jewish Veg has made this campaign the cornerstone of their work in New York City.

We held actions from Oct 2nd-October 8th with a "break" on Saturday since there were no accessible birds that day. Collectively, we saw over 300 activists join us on the ground with about 200 joining the Mass Chicken Care action on the final evening of Kaporos in Crown Heights.

While we had an extraordinarily devastating and improper incident with a few cops (captured on film and being analyzed by the attorneys on our team) on one of the days, that was the exception. The police in Williamsburg and Crown Heights overwhelmingly welcomed us back to the streets and even assisted in negotiating for the surrender of several birds into our care. The new Community Affairs officer in Borough Park is still if-y, but we are in communication with him and working to build what we hope will be a positive relationship.

The amount of visible rescue/open rescue during our actions was unprecedented. This is so powerful for the activists to witness amongst the horrors in the streets. We even had a brand-new victory at the Friday action where a site surrendered 26 birds into our care, 100% out in the open. You can see the tone of the chicken care action that lead to the surrender here, and the beginning of the surrender here. This is the 25 birds at our triage center right after. We also shifted the majority of our coordinated rescue work to the morning after the final Kaporos night so that more activists could participate.

So many workers and practitioners welcomed our guidance on how to hold the chickens, including children. Several willingly allowed us to remove injured birds to provide them with care. Almost none of them attempted to restrict our access. As you can appreciate, this is a massive shift in tone from previous years. However, we remained unapologetic at sites where the management was less cooperative. One of the attached photos shows the start of one such stance - the operator of the site refused to remove dead bodies from crates containing live birds. We asked politely and offered to help, yet he still refused. We responded by removing the bodies for him and placing the bodies on the table set up to sell tickets. My gut feeling is that this combination of cooperation but also calculated confrontation is a good tightrope for us to walk.

The shift to providing watermelon was embraced and loved by the activists AND the birds. While the coordination was more complicated to prepare for each day, it was well worth it and everyone agreed that it was bittersweet to see the chickens figure out and then get so excited about the watermelon placed into their crates. Based on the number of sites and the number of crates at each site, it is safe to estimate that we provided some sort of care and attention to over 10,000 suffering chickens.

We have several residents in Crown Heights partnering with us to speak out to city agencies and officials, along with supporting the activism in various ways.

The biggest benefits we see accumulating as a result of the shift in our presence includes: the Hasidic community is far more receptive to our perspective; the work of our outreach advocates is SUPPORTED rather than hindered by the presence of hundreds of activists during the rituals; videos and messaging supporting our work are becoming consistent in WhatsApp message groups in the Hasidic community; we have a growing number of former Hasidim joining as Outreach Activists, as they feel safer returning to their neighborhoods with this tone and with Jewish Veg.

The media coverage remains the toughest thing, but here's some coverage we found:

The consensus from activists is that caring for the birds and showing compassion for them is productive and our best chance at supporting progress in the campaign.

– Jill Carnegie, Alliance to End Chickens as Kaporos


activist conversing with Kaporos practitioners