MACHIPONGO, Va. September 23, 2008 - United Poultry Concerns (UPC) is urging rabbis and other members of the Jewish community who observe the ritual of atonement known as Kapparot
to use money instead of chickens. We’re asking people to contact their rabbis and write letters to Jewish newspapers urging them to do an article about Kapparot
that examines the practice from the standpoint of Jewish teachings of kindness and compassion to animals.
Kapparot (“atonements”) is a custom preceding Yom Kippur – the Jewish Day of Atonement, which falls on October 8 this year. In it, many ultra-Orthodox observers swing chickens over their heads while reciting verses about transferring their sins symbolically onto the bird. The chicken is then usually slaughtered, and may or may not be given to charity, although many of the birds so used are dehydrated, starving, and visibly injured when slaughtered.
Before the ceremony, the chickens are typically crammed for days in crates without food, water or shelter. In Los Angeles, witnesses have seen live birds with partially cut necks and vocal chords being callously thrown into plastic garbage bags in front of screaming children. In 2005, Time Out New York reported “hundreds of crates stacked high in an idling 16-wheeler.” The slaughter filled “Brooklyn streets with blood and feathers” amid “deafening” cries of chickens and children.
Kapparot is not required by the Torah or the Talmud. Most Modern Orthodox observers swing money for charity. As noted by former Israeli Chief Rabbi Shlomo Goren, “Kapparot is not consistent with Jewish teachings and law. Repentance and charity can be better accomplished by using money instead of a slaughtered chicken.”
Responding to numerous complaints about the ceremony, UPC published a brochure called “A Wing & A Prayer - The Kapparot Chicken-Swinging Ritual” (www.upc-online.org/kaparos/upckapparot.pdf) and has urged the Rabbinical Council of America to advocate swinging coins instead of birds (www.upc-online.org/kaparos). UPC president Karen Davis explained the request in B’nai B’rith Magazine: “We don’t want to see any animal go through suffering when there is no requirement.”
For more information, please contact United Poultry Concerns at (757) 678-7875.
United Poultry Concerns is a nonprofit organization dedicated to the compassionate and respectful treatment of domestic fowl (www.upc-online.org).