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"Ethical Kapparot" Urged by Editor of Jewish Journal

United Poultry Concerns
29 September 2009

"Ethical Kapparot" Urged by Editor of Jewish Journal of Greater Los Angeles

UPC President Karen Davis's Op-ed is Included in the Editorial, Sept
25, 2009 new_years_resolution_ethical_kapparot_20090925/

Also check out:
"Swinging Chicken Ritual Divides Orthodox Jews" on NPR, Sept 26, 2009 ]

A link to United Poultry Concerns is in the web story featuring UPC
members David Rosenfeld and Sam Schloss sticking up for chickens in
Brooklyn during cruel kapparot ritual last week. Read the story or listen
to it.

"Why Chickens Should Be Eliminated From Kapparot Ceremonies"
By Karen Davis, PhD, Jewish Journal of Greater Los Angeles, Sept 25, 2009 why_chickens_should_be_eliminated _from_kapparot_ceremonies_20090925/

Kapparot is a ceremony preceding Yom Kippur in which many Orthodox Jews,
especially in the Hasidic world, swing chickens around their heads while
reciting a chant about transferring their sins symbolically onto the
bird: "This is my exchange, my substitute, my atonement. This rooster
(or hen) shall go to its death, but I shall go to a good, long life, and
to peace."

The chickens are then slaughtered and may be given to the poor. The idea
is that when practitioners swing chickens slated for slaughter, they're
supposed to regard the slaughter of the bird as a substitute for the
punishment that God in "strict justice" would mete out to them instead
of mercy. Rather than the sinner, the innocent chicken suffers "strict
justice." This idea of the role of the chicken contradicts assertions
that chickens used in Kapparot ceremonies are treated with compassion.
Documentation of Kapparot ceremonies shows that the birds are seldom if
ever treated humanely. On the contrary, prior to the ceremony, the
chickens are packed in crates, often for days without food, water or
shelter. Birds not used have been found abandoned in their crates when
the ceremony was over. Practitioners often stand around chatting with
fellow observers while holding a chicken with the wings pulled painfully
backward and the legs dangling, as if the bird were an inanimate object
instead of a living, feeling being.

This way of holding chickens is painful and potentially injurious to
them. It is particularly painful given that the main types of chickens
used in Kapparot ceremonies are young "broiler" chickens about six weeks
old. These birds have been bred to grow many times faster and larger
than normal chickens. As a result, they are susceptible to painful joint
degeneration, crippling lameness, and heart attacks reflecting genetic
infirmities incurred in the quest for meat production. In his paper Pain
in Birds," Dr. Michael Gentle cites the "widespread nature of chronic
orthopaedic disease in domestic poultry," and Dr. John Webster,
professor of animal husbandry in the University of Bristol School of
Veterinary Science, points out that these birds "have grown too heavy
for their limbs and/or become so distorted in shape as to impose
unnatural stresses on their joints."

Shown pictures of chickens being held with their wings pulled back by
Kapparot practitioners, Dr. Ian Duncan, Professor Emeritus of Poultry
Science at the University of Guelph in Ontario, wrote that "holding a
domestic fowl with the wings pinned back as shown will be painful. It
will be extremely painful if the bird is held in this position for some
minutes." Dr. Nedim Buyukmihci, Emeritus Professor of Veterinary
Medicine at the University of California, Davis, observed that "the
manner in which the man is holding the chicken, with the wings pulled
back, puts the chicken at risk for ligament and tendon injury, possibly
even bone fracture."

Opponents of the use of chickens in Kapparot ceremonies point out that
their use is not required by the Torah or the Talmud. Most Kapparot
observers swing money for charity as a gesture of atonement, repentance,
and goodwill. Swinging money in a handkerchief, which maintains the
tradition of giving charity to the poor, has been endorsed by many
rabbis and is mentioned in prayer books, including the Artscroll Siddur,
which is used in many Orthodox synagogues.

In the 16th century, a Code was devised to offer practical guidance in
the application of Written and Oral Laws. This Code, known as the
Shulchan Aruch, is considered authoritative within Orthodox circles. In
it, the concept of tzaar baalei chaim - the mandate not to cause
unnecessary pain to any living creature - is affirmed: "It is forbidden,
according to the law of the Torah, to inflict pain upon any living
creature. On the contrary, it is our duty to relieve the pain of any
creature, even if it is ownerless or belongs to a non-Jew." In other
words, the concept of tzaar baalei chaim includes a need not only to
avoid causing pain to animals, but also to show them compassion.

For these reasons, we urge Jews and others who care about animals to
disperse the kindness message in Jewish teachings that encourage
compassion for animals. We urge that Kapparot observers use money
instead of chickens, and that rabbis incorporate the cruel facts about
the use of chickens in Kapparot ceremonies, and how to have a
compassionate ceremony, into their Rosh Hashanah sermons. While reducing
the suffering of the chickens is possible, genuinely compassionate
treatment of the birds is not compatible with their use in these
rituals, which do not require them. Even in communities where religious
traditions are strong, customs can evolve to a higher standard of
justice and compassion for all of God's creatures, and this is what
opponents of using chickens in Kapparot ceremonies are asking

Karen Davis, PhD is president of United Poultry Concerns, a nonprofit
organization that promotes the compassionate and respectful treatment of
domestic fowl. For more information, visit [].

United Poultry Concerns is a nonprofit organization that promotes the
compassionate and respectful treatment of domestic fowl.
Don't just switch from beef to chicken. Go Vegan.

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