Jewish ritual sacrifice of chickens raises religious liberty issue

Published: Friday, Sept. 13 2013 9:55 a.m. MDT

Ultra-Orthodox Jewish men hold chicken after it was slaughtered as part of the Kaparot ritual in which it is believed that one transfers one's sins from the past year into the chicken in Israel.

Associated Press

Enlarge photo»

Thousands of chickens have been slaughtered this week in makeshift stands across the country through a practice known as Kaparot that is observed every year during the lead-up to Yom Kippur, the Jewish day of atonement that commences Friday evening.

A feature article published in Thursday’s Los Angeles Times reports that Kaparot, which is generally limited to Orthodox Jews, is increasingly angering animal rights advocates even though it has been occurring for several centuries.

“Animal rights activists and some liberal Jews (say) the custom is inhumane, paganistic and out of step with modern times,” Martha Groves and Matt Stevens wrote for the Times. “… This year, activists have launched one of the largest, most organized efforts ever in (Southern California) to protest the practice. … The demonstrations have sometimes gotten testy. Protesters and Kaparot managers alike contend they've been peppered with anti-Semitic slurs.”

The Jewish columnist Eliyahu Federman penned an op-ed piece for USA Today on Thursday that asserts those who criticize Kaparot are essentially missing the forest for the trees, because death-by-Kaparot is more humane than slaughterhouse execution and roughly seven billion chickens die in U.S. slaughterhouses every year.

“The real difference between Kaparot and factory farming is that factory farming takes place behind closed doors, whereas Kaparot is usually performed in very public places, like the streets of Brooklyn and Queens,” Federman wrote. “… Beyond selective claims of animal cruelty is also a disdain and intolerance for a revered religious ritual practiced by many Hasidic Jews. A ritual protected by the sacrosanct right to freedom of religion.

“The end result of both factory farming and Kaparot is the same: Chickens are killed to sustain people.”

Email: jaskar@desnews.com

Get The Deseret News Everywhere

Subscribe

Mobile

RSS