Animal rights activists condemn ‘kapparot’ ritual

‘Especially on this day there is no place to cause so much suffering to animals,’ says Peretz.

A MAN performs ‘kapparot’ 370 (photo credit: Marc Israel Sellem/The Jerusalem Post)
A MAN performs ‘kapparot’ 370
(photo credit: Marc Israel Sellem/The Jerusalem Post)
Animal rights activists across the country and government leaders are raising their voices against the Yom Kippur eve ritual of kapparot – the swinging of live chickens over one’s head.
Overwhelmingly, the activists have expressed that they favor the practice of financial kapparot – achieving atonement by donating money to the poor – over the practice of swinging the chickens, which they deem severe animal cruelty. Many of the organizations cite Jewish rabbis and luminaries from across the ages – such as the Ramban and the Rashba – as speaking out against the practice.
One animal rights organization, Hakol Chai, has launched a petition called “Atone in Money and Not in Chickens” on the petitioning website Atzuma, which its leaders are to be submitting to Religious Services Minister Naftali Bennett.
The petition argues that prior to Yom Kippur, hundreds of thousands of chickens are left in uncomfortable conditions without water or food, after which they experience great suffering to their wings and legs during the ceremony itself.
By Thursday evening, three days after its conception, the numbers had climbed to 672 signatures.
That evening, a protest against the practice and animal abuse in general occurred in Petah Tikvah’s Kikar Hameyasdim, led by Meretz Petah Tikva and the Vegan Friendly organization. Ahead of the protest, the demonstrators called the practice a “pointless and primitive tradition,” stressing that it must come to an end.
Environmental Protection Minister Amir Peretz has likewise called for the public to stop using live chickens as part of their pre-holiday rituals.
Instead of performing the practice of kapparot – or literally atonement – by swinging live chickens, Peretz suggests that people perform their redemption ritual by donating money.
Leading up to the kapparot service practiced on the eve of Yom Kippur, animals are held in crowded and difficult conditions, the minister explained.
Meanwhile, because many of the chickens are not slaughtered properly according to halacha, a great portion of their carcasses just end up being discarded, Peretz added.
Over the years, many rabbis have come out against the practice and have called upon the public to choose the financial atonement option instead, he explained.
“Yom Kippur is a day of reflection, and especially on this day there is no place to cause so much suffering to animals,” Peretz said. “There is the much more humane custom for atonement, and I urge the public to stop this severe abuse.”
MK Dov Lipman (Yesh Atid), who is behind a bill to ban the sales of foie gras in Israel, has similar been outspoken against the practice of the kapparot ritual, for reasons similar to those of Peretz.
The organization Anonymous for Animal Rights meanwhile has turned to the chief rabbis of Israel, calling upon them to take a stand on the issue and encourage financial atonement instead of the use of chickens. Members of Anonymous have distributed leaflets and posters at synagogues around the country that read: “Save souls, and not soul for soul.”
The leaflets and posters quote prominent rabbis who have come out strongly against the practice due to the cruelty to animals associated with it, the organization said.
“Under the framework of atonement grave suffering is caused to tens of thousands of chickens,” a statement from Anonymous said.
In addition to the pain caused to the chickens’ legs, wings and heads while shaking them, additional suffering occurs when they are left pressed together for lengthy periods in cages, without water or food, the organization added.