There is an interesting ruling in Los Angeles where United States Judge Andre Birotte Jr. has lifted a temporary restraining order against a California synagogue performing Kapparot, a ritual where chickens are twirled in the air and then slaughtered. We previously discussed the controversies surrounding the Yom Kippur ritual.
With the approach of Yom Kippur, animal rights advocates and officials in California have long campaigned 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 could 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. Notably, the ritual could still be practiced at a slaughterhouse, an option chosen by some Jewish followers.
Judge Birotte had previously granted the order at the request of an animal rights group called United Poultry Concerns, but then lifted the order after an expedited hearing. The challenge will go on but the group was allowed to perform the ritual in the interim.