Minister for Environmental Protection Amir Peretz will be making a lot of animal lovers happy this holiday season by calling for an end to the use of live chickens in the traditional Jewish ceremony of Kapparot, which involves swinging the animals through the air above head-height.

"Yom Kippur is a day of reflection and precisely on this day there is no room for causing so much suffering to animals," Peretz said. "There are many other, far more humane ways to uphold the Kapparot custom and I am calling on the public to end this serious abuse."

Those who practice the ceremony of Kapparot (the Hebrew for atonement) in the period leading up to Yom Kippur, believe the bird becomes a live conduit for their sins. The bird – a rooster for men and a hen for women - is swung around the person's head, and then slaughtered on the afternoon before the holy day begins. As Yom Kippur approaches, birds set to be used in the Kaparot ceremony are kept in cramped cages.

The tradition is primarily practiced by the ultra-Orthodox in the modern world, as most Jews have abandoned the tradition, with some preferring instead to donate money to charity in atonement. Many rabbis have for years spoken out against the use of animals in the ceremony, and urged Jews to engage in acts of philanthropy instead. New Chief Rabbi David Lau recently made a similar call, urging Jews to be mindful "of the holy obligation that exists throughout the year to refrain from causing suffering to animals."

Peretz also called on the public to give to charity as a way of observing Kapparot.

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