Before Yom Kippur, the Jewish day of atonement, tens of thousands of ultra-Orthodox Jews in Brooklyn, New York, partake in a sacrificial ritual called Kaporos. During Kaporos, practitioners swing a live chicken around their heads while saying a prayer to transfer their sins to the animal, who is then slaughtered. In 2016, hundreds of animal rights activists disrupted the massacre.
Slaughtering animals on public streets is illegal, as it violates 15 city and state health, sanitation and animal cruelty laws, but NYC’s elected officials and the agencies that report to them, including the NYPD and Department of Health, turn a blind eye because the ultra-Orthodox Jewish communities that partake in the ritual vote in blocs. NY-based attorney Nora Constance Marino is suing the City of New York on behalf of local residents and the advocacy group The Alliance to End Chickens as Kaporos for failing to enforce both city and state laws.
Shimon Shuchat, who was born into the Hasidic community but has since left, encourages a Kaporos practitioner to swing coins instead of live chickens.
Animal rights activists in New York, Los Angeles, Miami and Jerusalem, cities with large populations of ultra-Orthodox Jews, are campaigning to ban Kaporos.
On September 17th, about 1,500 people traveled to upstate New York to attend Catskill Animal Sanctuary’s (CAS) annual “shindig,” a day long celebration with rescued animals, live bands, cooking demonstrations, vegan food vendors, speakers and hayrides.
According to Kathy Stevens, the founder of CAS, sanctuaries enable visitors who aren’t already vegan to “connect the dots between their lifestyle choices and the suffering of these beautiful animals.” She asserts that people must “understand that our choice to eat animals condemns countless beings to an unthinkable level of torture, fear and terror.”
Attendees bond with farm animals at Catskill Animal Sanctuary’s 15th Anniversary Shindig
By inviting many vegan food vendors to the shindig, Stevens demonstrates that adopting a diet free of animals is hardly a sacrifice, given how delicious vegan food in 2016. And while not all vegan food is health food, a plant-based diet, Stevens asserts, is better for our health and for the planet, as animal agriculture “is the primary cause of the global devastation we’re experiencing.”
At least a dozen vegan food vendors lined the roads within the sanctuary.
Following numerous undercover investigations revealing shocking cruelty in slaughterhouses, U.S. meat and egg companies are slowly shifting towards a method of killing regarded by many as being less inhumane: gas chambers.
Euphemistically referred to as Controlled Atmosphere Killing (CAK), gas chambers are widely used in Australia and some European Union countries to slaughter pigs, chickens and other animals.
In several countries, pigs and chickens are commonly killed using gas chambers.
In order to gas pigs, slaughterhouse workers use electric prods to force them into small steel cages which are lowered into carbon dioxide filled chambers. Undercover footage shows pigs screaming, thrashing and gasping for air in their final moments. An Australian activist conducting an undercover investigation described what he saw: “In their last minutes, these pigs are burning from the inside out.”
Pigs being suffocated in gas chambers.
The travelling crates that contain chickens are typically unloaded from a truck onto a conveyor belt which carries them into a gas chamber. According to an eyewitness from Canadians for the Ethical Treatment of Food Animals, “Aversive behavior in the form of gasping, shaking of heads and stretching of necks to breathe could be seen beginning in window two [of the gas chamber] and, by window three, all were exhibiting strong convulsions. The birds’ movements eventually became still and by the time they emerged from the CO2 chambers they were completely lifeless…”
Gas chambers are used to render broiler chickens unconscious before they are bled to death.
Workers aggressively grab spent layer hens birds out of their cages and toss them into mobile metal gas chambers. On some factory farms, the hens are simply stuffed into trash cans where they are gassed. According to a former worker at a supplier to Eggland’s Best: “It’s absolutely chilling to hear these birds scrambling and fighting for air in these gas chambers.”
At worst spent hens are killed by being thrown into trash cans which are than filled with gas.
Several animal advocacy groups are pressuring companies to transition to using CAK as their primary method of slaughter because it has been shown to be, in many ways, less painful and stressful than conventional methods.
The German parliament recently voted against a Green Party bill that would have banned the practice of killing newborn male chicks in the egg industry. According to a spokesman from the ruling Christian Democratic Union Party, the decision was made out of fear that “…animal production will move to another country.” A high court affirmed this decision, arguing that German law allows the killing of animals if it can be justified economically and that chick shredding is “…part of the process for providing the population with eggs and meat.” An agricultural minister from Northern Germany disagreed with the decision, stating “We must finally stop treating animals like garbage.”
Since male chicks cannot lay eggs or be profitably raised for meat, they are usually killed within hours of hatching. The most common methods are grinding them up alive (maceration), gassing, electrocution or suffocation by stuffing them into garbage bags. In Germany, approximately 40 million newborn male chicks are killed every year. Worldwide, the number is estimated to be 2.5 billion.
Two widely used methods of male chick culling are maceration and suffocation.
“If killing millions of newborns doesn’t violate the animal protection laws of a country widely perceived as being on the forefront of animal welfare reform, then one can only imagine what farm animal practices are legal in countries like the U.S.,” said Karen Davis, President of United Poultry Concerns, a national advocacy group that promotes the compassionate and respectful treatment of domestic fowl. “It is thus interesting that the U.S. egg industry trade group, United Egg Producers (UEP), has just announced it will, by 2020, replace the killing of newborn male chicks with ‘in-ovo egg sexing,’ a process in which the sex of chicks is identified before they develop inside of their eggs.”
UEP’s announcement was made in response to a campaign by The Humane League, a national animal advocacy organization that works to protect animals through public education, campaigns and rescue.
In response to the news, Davis said, “While in-ovo chick sexing must surely be less inhumane than the mass-extermination of fully developed chicks, it does not eliminate the inherent cruelty of commercial egg production.”
Israeli animal rights activists occupy a chick hatchery and shuts down a macerator in the process of grinding newborn male chicks.
The practice of chick shredding has generated tremendous controversy worldwide in recent years. In June, 2015, Israeli animal rights activists occupied a hatchery and shut off a macerator that was grinding newborn chicks. When police arrived at the scene, activist Tal Gilboa challenged an officer, saying “I want to see you, as a human being regardless of your uniform, cop or no cop, turn on the power supply.” The video of this act of civil disobedience was viewed over two million times on Facebook.
To learn more about The Humane League’s successful campaign to end the mass killing of male chicks in the egg industry, please visit the organization’s blog post about its victory.
In March, several hundred people came together in Berkeley, California, for the annual Conscious Eating Conference. Throughout the day, advocates, authors and philosophers from around the country made presentations about the ethics of eating and how food choices impact animals, human health and the planet. To view and share the full presentations, please visit United Poultry Concerns.
The David Brower Center in Berkeley was filled to capacity with several hundred attendees.
Hope Bohanec of United Poultry Concerns
During the breaks, attendees visited the booths of animal advocacy groups, animal sanctuaries, authors and vegan companies.
The 2016 Conscious Eating Conference featured exhibitors from around the country
United Poultry Concerns is a national advocacy group that “promotes the compassionate and respectful treatment of domestic fowl.” To learn more about UPC and to support their work, please visit their website.