A man performs the ancient Jewish ritual of kaparot.
(photo credit: REUTERS)
Every year animals rights activists seek to ban and actively protest against some hassidic Jews in New York City, Los Angeles, and elsewhere that slaughter chickens as part of the pre-Yom Kippur atonement ritual known as Kapparot. The chicken meat and revenue is traditionally donated to the poor.
This battle doesn’t just affect the religious rights of hassidic Jews seeking to preserve the ancient practice free from harassment. The battle reflects a larger animal rights agenda to ban all hunting, chicken- and cow-eating, as well as all ritual (halal and kosher) slaughter.
The animal rights movement claims that ritual slaughter is more inhuman than conventional slaughter. Don’t be fooled: despite the graphic nature of ritual slaughter, it is no more painful than other form of factory killing. It involves quickly slitting the animal’s throat with a razor-sharp blade. Research in the Veterinary Record even supports that it is humane. After considering the “neurophysiological studies relevant to the assessment of pain,” it concluded that the practice “is a painless and humane method of animal slaughter.”
The Kapparot battle reached a zenith this year when the “Alliance to End Chickens As Kapparos” filed a lawsuit to ban the practice in New York City. The poultry rights group lost last week, and the practice was given the go-ahead. But unfortunately the same cannot be said for Norway, Denmark, Poland, Sweden, Switzerland and other countries where Muslim and Jewish ritual slaughter is illegal.
More importantly, the Alliance to End Kaparos is not seeking more humane treatment of chickens. It’s an alliance to end Kapparot, not improve it or make it more humane. It seeks to ban the practice all together. Seeking more humane treatment would be a worthy goal and one that rabbis take seriously, which is why rabbinical authorities annually call for more humane chicken handling, transportation and treatment – especially because Jewish law itself forbids cruelty to animals.
In court documents, the Alliance to End Kaparos refers to the chicken-slaughtering ritual as barbaric. If it’s barbaric to turn a chicken around your head before killing it, then why wouldn’t it be barbaric to shackle chickens upside down and slit their throats with a machine that often fails, resulting in millions of birds being boiled alive in defeathering tanks? That’s what happens in factory farms. It is a worse fate than that of Kapparot chickens. In fact, a recent investigation of Tyson Foods reveals systematic abuse, including workers ripping the heads off of live chickens.
As a sneaky PR move to appear less animal- rights-focused and give them more legitimacy, the End Kaparos organization has advised protesters to “NOT write ‘Meat is murder’” or “A holocaust is on your plate” or anything not directly “dealing with ending chickens as Kaparos.” But in fact, the organization is a direct project of United Poultry Concerns, a national animal rights organization openly promoting a “vegan diet and lifestyle” with the slogan “Birds are friends, not food.” If they had their way, say goodbye to your Kentucky Fried Chicken.
PETA is another animal rights group that opposes Kapparot, the eating of any meat, testing on animals (including for life-saving medical research!) and even recreational fishing. Its motto: “Animals are not ours to eat, wear, experiment on, use for entertainment, or abuse in any other way.” If you think about it, PETA is philosophically consistent with its agenda.
After all, if any animal has rights, shouldn’t all animals have rights? Why would chickens killed by hassidic Jews in New York deserve any less protection than chickens killed on factory farms in Arkansas? Though one battle is being waged in New York City between small groups of hassidic Jews and animal rights activists, another battle is being waged around the world, where large populations of Jews and Muslim are fighting for ritual slaughter rights. The broader battle involves the majority of the population that wants to continue to eat meat, hunt and fishing.
So the next time you see hassidic people swinging and slaughtering chickens in a seemingly bizarre and incomprehensible religious ritual, remember that those wanting to end that practice would want to remove the sirloin and chicken tenders from your plate, because, after all, it also got there via the death of an animal.
Animal rights activists view all meat as murder.The author has written for the Huffington Post, USA Today and others, including on animal rights issues. Follow him on Twitter: @elifederman.