Government urges public to refrain from enacting Yom Kippur chicken ritual

In an attempt to avoid unnecessary cruelty to animals, the EPM explains that there are alternatives to the practice of swinging a chicken over one's head ahead of the Day of Atonement

Chicken (photo credit: INGIMAGE)
(photo credit: INGIMAGE)
The Environmental Protection Ministry has called on Jewish members of the public to refrain from swinging live chickens over their heads before Yom Kippur and instead cast away their sins by giving money to charity, a press release on behalf of the ministry reported.
The ritual of kapparot is meant to symbolically “pass on” all the bad actions committed by the person to the chicken, which is slaughtered and eaten. Not only does the press release warn that it’s cruel to spin anything living, but adds that the fowl are held in crowded cages in poor conditions, causing them even more discomfort.
The ministry is trying to raise awareness to the fact that the same symbolic merit can be gained by giving money to charity, something several rabbis have suggested over the years as a way to avoid animal abuse.
This is not a new approach among Jewish religious scholars; the practice is not rooted in Jewish law, but is rather a minhag, meaning a tradition accepted by most of the community, and to take its social normative value from that.
As the chicken is usually slaughtered and made into a meal for the poor, and not the person who “poured his sins” to it, it’s possible that past generations valued it as a way to feed the poor in pre-modern society.
However, one can spin above their head a sum of money and utter the blessing as well; the coins or notes “accept” the sins and the money can then be given to charity.
Speaking to The Jerusalem Post in 2013, Rabbi Adam Frank said that “personally, I do the kapparot with money for charity every year. I run the butchery as a service to the community. But if it were up to me, I would cancel the tradition.”