Chickens never seem to catch a break. From being one of the most widely eaten animals, with approximately 9 billion chickens being eaten annually in the U.S. alone, to being one of the most unprotected animals by law, with no federal regulations currently providing them any protection, no one in their right mind would ever sign up to be reincarnated as a chicken if given the choice.

Being a chicken is especially terrible during this time of year due to the Jewish holiday Yom Kippur.

According to the NY Times, “Between Oct. 4, the end of the Rosh Hashana observance of the new year, and Yom Kippur, the day of atonement starting the night of Oct. 11, an estimated 50,000 chickens will be sacrificed in Brooklyn as part of a penitential ritual performed by some Hasidic Jews.”

On the eve of Yom Kippur, some that practice Judaism participate in the Kapparot, or Kaporos. The Kapparot is a Jewish atonement ritual that involves swinging a live chicken above your head to signify the transfer of your sins into the chicken. In Jewish tradition, the chicken is swung above the head three times while a short prayer is recited three times. Afterwards the chicken is slaughtered according to the laws of shechita, Jewish dietary laws that say how certain mammal and birds must be slaughtered for food, and donated to the less fortunate for them to eat at the pre-Yom Kippur meal.

Is this cruelty really necessary though? Is there no other way to donate to the poor?

There is! Another way to repent, donate to the poor and practice the Kapparot is with money! As a substitute to the barbaric practice of swinging a live chicken above one’s head during the prayer and slaughtering it to give to the less fortunate, one could swing a bag of money instead and donate the money enclosed in that bag to the poor.

Want to help put an end to this inhumane practice? Begin by checking out the Alliance to End Chickens as Kaporos and United Poultry Concerns. Then start a petition, contact someone in your local government, or contact the Rabbinical Council of America and advocate that this ritual be carried out in a humane fashion, with money instead of loss of life.

Rabbi Shlomo Hochberg, President Rabbinical Council of America
305 Seventh Avenue, 12th Floor
New York, NY 10001
Phone: 212-807-7888
Fax: 212-727-8452
[email protected]

Photo by Zivya via Wikimedia Commons under the Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 3.0 Unported license.