Animal Rights Activists Start Campaign to End the Jewish Kapparot Ritual for Yom Kippur

With the approach of Yom Kippur, animal rights advocates and officials in California are launching a campaign to end the ritual of Kapparot, where a fowl is held by the neck and swung around the head of a Jewish person. The sins of the person are then transfered to the fowl (usually a chicken) which is then sacrificed. The practice has been denounced as little more than animal cruelty and many have called for criminal charges under state laws.

Municipal Code SEC. 53.67 states:

“No person shall engage in, participate in, assist in, or perform animal sacrifice. No person shall own, keep, possess or have custody of any animal with the purpose or intention of using such animal for animal sacrifice. No person shall knowingly sell, offer to sell, give away or transfer any animal to another person who intends to use such animal for animal sacrifice. ‘Animal sacrifice’ means the injuring or killing of any animal in any religious or cult ritual or as an offering to a deity, devil, demon or spirit, wherein the animal has not been injured or killed primarily for food purposes, regardless of whether all or any part of such animal is subsequently consumed.”

That would seem to sum up the Kapparot pretty well. Many Jews oppose the practice as tza’ar ba’alei chayim (unnecessary pain to animals). Money is used by most Jews, which is waved around their heads and then given to the poor.

Any crackdown force an interesting test case similar to the 1993 ruling in Church of the Lukumi Babalu Aye, Inc,. et al. v. City of Hialeah, where the Court struck down the city’s ban on ritual animal sacrifice as violative of the first amendment’s free exercise clause.

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13 thoughts on “Animal Rights Activists Start Campaign to End the Jewish Kapparot Ritual for Yom Kippur

  1. Actually they don’t swing the chicken by its neck. Doing so would kill the chicken as that is an early American (and other cultures) way of killing chickens. Its called “ringing their neck”, and what you do is grab the chicken, and violently swing it one time in an arc, which breaks the chickens neck.

    I think they grab the tail feathers and feet here. And you’re right. Its a barbaric practice and is indicitive of the foundings of the Jewish religion. After all, lets face it. We give Christians a hard time but Judaism was founded on human and animal sacrifice.

    The community should outlaw the ritual if the elders won’t.

  2. Theological Query:

    If you can transfer sins to a chicken, and you can also get rid of sins using the ancient “sin eater” surrogate, does that make Colonel Saunders the most evil person who ever lived?

  3. jonathanturley
    1, October 6, 2008 at 2:56 pm

    Darn it, that is why my sins have remained unchanged.

    I’d try using the old “Scapegoat” method.

    In early Judaism another, less barbaric practice of cleansing of sin was the use of a Scapegoat during Yom Kippur. They simply put some fancy silver necklace on the goat and banish it to the wilderness. Which is fairly humane considering goats can live on pretty much anything.

    Then, you can banish your sins to the wilderness, along with your newly purchased female goat, and not feel too bad about cruelty to animals.

    Although you may find yourself lying awake at night, wondering what happened to the goat.

  4. Sure it’s “animal sacrifice” as defined by the statute, but as long as the chickens are ultimately slaughtered humanely and consumed, why should the fact that “the animal has not been injured or killed primarily for food purposes” make a difference?

  5. As to this free exercise clause:

    What if you believed that instead of a fowl, a “loyal Bushy” should be held by the neck and swung around the head of a Jewish person to rid the world of evil?

    We could do that every 4th of July

  6. Jericho,
    that is not funny! I have to agree that the chicken ritual is cruel and should be outlawed by the Religious leaders and if they refuse, by society.

  7. In my community, the Jewish people gather on the beach and cast bread into the ocean. No protests are planned on behalf of the yeast organisms and unborn wheat plants that were sacrificed for this purpose.

    (Meanwhile, cockfighting is still legal because, it is rumored, some of the lawmakers are involved with it.)

  8. I cannot think of anything more disgusting than killing an innocent animal to get some sort of benefit from one’s god. Who could have come up with such a warped idea? Why don’t the local governments enforce the anti-cruelty laws that are on the books. Ultra-Orthodox Jews have many barbaric practices. This is one of the worst. Their treatment of women is a close second.

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