Kapparot is a Hasidic Jewish ritual in which chickens are sacrificed for Yom Kippur each year in September. In the ritual a live bird is held above the practitioner's head and swung in a circle three times. The idea is to pass punishments the person has earned into the innocent bird, who is subsequently slaughtered. Most Jews do not practice kapparot, but give money to the poor instead. While "chicken swinging" may be a protected religious practice in the United States at present, depriving the birds of food and water and forcing them to sit in crates in the streets for days, up to an entire week, is not.
Notwithstanding, thousands of chickens sat miserably in crates from September 21-September 27 in New York City this year without proper food, water, or shelter, even though the State of New York charges "peace officers" with enforcing its Anti-Cruelty Laws. In cases of animal cruelty and neglect, the primary peace officer agency handling this duty is the ASPCA.
However, this year as in years past, the ASPCA did not enforce the law when called upon to do so by distressed residents. A humane officer merely paid a token visit that "didn't substantiate anything that was a matter of cruelty." An ASPCA officer told UPC that he saw "hoses" but no water containers in the crates in which the chickens sat in the streets, and that he didn't know how, or whether, the birds were being fed; he merely saw some feed bags someplace. On being pressed for details, the officer told UPC that he had been sent to investigate a type of animal he knew little or nothing about and that the ASPCA could do nothing about water deprivation anyway unless it led to an "injury," which he defined as "the death of the animal." This "humane" officer told UPC: "Nobody is going to get seriously worked up over an animal that tomorrow is going to be somebody's dinner."
Larry M. Hawk, DVM
424 East 92nd Street
New York. NY 10128-6804
- Urge Dr. Hawk to use the time between now and next September to inform the Hasidic rabbis in writing that they must comply with the New York State Anti-Cruelty Law, Article 26, regarding the proper care and treatment of animals. Neither the U.S. Constitution nor the State of New York protects the mistreatment and neglect of the chickens prior to the ritual. Each individual bird must have adequate and accessible food and water, and protection from the elements at all times.
In addition, urge Dr. Hawk to provide the ASPCA's humane officers with written guidelines and training regarding the humane care and treatment of chickens and other domestic fowl, so that an officer will recognize when these birds are being abused and neglected, even in the absence of cockfighting arsenal.
- Request a written response from Dr. Hawk, and ask that the American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals show compassion for chickens no less than for dogs and cats.