Before Yom Kippur, the Jewish Day of Atonement, hundreds of thousands of observant Jews across the world partake in Kaporos, a religious ritual in which participants swing live chickens around their heads while saying a prayer to transfer their sins to the animals. After the ceremony, a ritual slaughterer cuts their throats and stuffs them into inverted cones, garbage bags or dumpsters where they bleed to death, taking the sins with them.
Each year, dozens of activists protest at Kaporos sites in Brooklyn, which is home to tens of thousands of Orthodox Jews. During the protests, activists plead with participants to perform the ritual with coins intend of live chickens, an option offered in Jewish scripture. The participants argue that live chickens must be used, according to God.
What angers and mobilizes activists is not only the barbaric ritual but also the conditions in which the animals are held for days. Stuffed into milk crates, the chickens are unable to move and are deprived of food, water, protection from the elements and the ability to clean off the urine and feces of the chickens stacked above them. It is in this weakened state that participants grab them by their fragile wings, often breaking them, and perform the ritual.
This 2 minute clip shows the ritual and the protests:
In 2010, Kaporos supporters vandalized the home of Rina Deych, a founding member of the Alliance to End Chickens as Kaporos. Ms. Deych argues that the ritual “violates Jewish mandates and imperatives” and that, “each year, more and more Orthodox rabbis are speaking out against using chickens.”
The Alliance to End Chicken as Kaporos has been working since 2010 to eliminate the barbaric ritual through education and protests and by begging for mercy. This year, they have employed a new approach — petitioning the local government to enforce the health codes that would shut down Kaporos and stop the river of blood from flowing in the streets. Please sign the petition.
To learn more about Kaporos, please read this article by Karen Davis, the Founder of United Poultry Concerns, who travels each year from Virginia to New York to help lead the Kaporos protests.