Help Stop the Abuse of Chickens in Kapporos Ritual Sacrifices –
“Reviewing the entire current kapparos situation, using alternative to chickens such as money to tzedakah, might be a desirable option.” – Orthodox Rabbi Gershon Tannenbaum
From a distance, kapporos sites look like street festivals. But up close, they are horrifying makeshift slaughterhouses on public streets. This ritual, which is practiced primarily by Hasidic Jewish communities, involves the rough handling (waving chickens over one’s head) and slaughter of chickens in a sacrificial atonement ceremony prior to the holiday of Yom Kippur.
Just in Brooklyn, New York, more than 50,000 chickens are trucked in for this ritual. They languish without food and water, stacked in cramped, filthy transport crates on public streets for hours. Many don’t even survive until the time when they would be slaughtered.
The use of live chickens for this ritual has been widely criticized by rabbis representing a wide range of Jewish observance. Most Jewish communities that still practice kapporos do so using money, instead of live chickens; the money—instead of meat—is then donated to tzedakah (charity). Using money is a religiously approved option and eliminates all the gratuitous cruelty associated with this ceremony.
Rabbi Shea Hecht runs the largest—and arguably the most inhumane—kapporos operation in Brooklyn. In 2007, PETA filmed that workers were filling seven crates with the bodies of chickens who died while suffering for hours in crowded transport crates at Hecht’s kapporos center. Adults and children handled chickens abusively during the painful ceremony. Because of the volume of chickens and because the pace of slaughter was so rushed, many chickens were stuffed inside trash bags while still conscious. Some chickens who were not slaughtered were found abandoned after kapporos in boxes without any food or water and had to be rescued.
Thousands of slaughtered chickens—about two-thirds of those used at Rabbi Hecht’s kapporos site—were not given to charity but were thrown away after slaughter. This operation did not have the capacity to process the vast number of chickens killed. PETA was told by an organizer that other chickens would be purchased as replacements, doubling the death toll. Rabbi Moshe Weiner of the Kashrus Information Service called this disposal unacceptable. This was a tremendous waste of life, in violation of the intent of kapporos, and a flagrant disregard for the Jewish principle of bal tashchit (against wasteful, wanton destruction).
Please write to representatives of the Beis Din of Crown Heights—the kosher agency that certifies this kapporos operation—to demand that it no longer certify Rabbi Hecht’s kapporos operation.