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Animal cruelty and the ritual of kapparot

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Prof David Bilchitz (pictured) & Candy Ristic of Chicken Rescue & Rehab SA submit a letter saying there is a more humane way to celebrate
by DAVID BILCHITZ & CANDY RISTIC | Oct 05, 2014

In recent years, there has been a revival among some communities of the use of live chickens to perform the ritual of kapparot. Kapparot is a ceremony which takes place before Yom Kippur in which the sins of a person are symbolically transferred on to a fowl (or a substitute object such as money).

Bilchitz DavidThe animal is then slaughtered and the meat given to the poor. The origins of the ceremony are neither in the Torah or the Talmud and its earliest record is in post-Talmudic 9
th Century religious writings. The practice was controversial since its inception with famous halachic authorities such as the Rambam and Joseph Caro opposing it, the latter banning it as a foolish custom that Jews should avoid. Other authorities permitted it and many Ashkenazi communities, in particular, continued the practice.

The conditions under which chickens are raised today, however, provide strong modern objections to the practice from a Jewish and humanitarian point of view. It is very difficult (if not impossible) to perform the practice as a lay person without harming the chickens concerned.
Why is this so? It is necessary to recognise that the chickens used in kapparot are of two kinds. The layers (egg-producing chickens) have been subjected to at least a year of being crammed into cages no bigger than the size of an A4 page with multiple chickens per cage. After being cleared from the cages, they often are not provided with food or water: The chickens that arrive at Kapparot ceremony may thus be starving and thirsty and are often kept for long periods in small cages.
The broilers (meat-producing chickens) have been genetically modified so that they grow to be ready for slaughter after six weeks or less. These are essentially over-sized baby chickens whose bones are brittle and weak, and whose legs struggle to support their bodies. For a lay person to handle either of these types of chickens has a strong likelihood of causing dislocation of limbs, and broken bones. It is also traumatic for the chickens.
For these reasons, it is very likely that kapparot will lead to a transgression of the serious prohibition on causing animals to suffer (Tzaar Ba’alei Chayim) just prior to Yom Kippur. For this reason, Orthodox authorities such as Shlomo Zalman Auerbach, Yitzchak Kadouri and Shlomo Aviner came out publicly against using live animals for kapparot and encouraged the use of money instead.

ALSO READ: DID SPCA POUNCE AT 11th HOUR TO STOP TA KAPORROS?

Chicken Rescue and Rehabilitation South Africa has seen first-hand some of the chickens harmed by kapparot. We would therefore encourage people not to run the risk of causing harm and distress to innocent animals just prior to Yom Kippur by desisting from the use of live chickens. If your community persists in using live animals, we would encourage you to contact Chicken Rescue (details below) who will guide you in the way to handle the animals in such a way that will minimise the harms to these beautiful and defenceless creatures.

Prof David Bilchitz and Candy Ristic
Chicken Rescue and Rehabilitation South Africa

8 Comments

  1. 8 Gary Selikow 05 Oct
    I support animal rights and therefore endorse this letter
  2. 7 Glenn Wolfson 06 Oct
    Rambam and Joseph Caro are good enough for me to be convinced.
  3. 6 Dion 06 Oct
    I too, am opposed to the use of chickens for this ritual.
    However, it is disengenous for David Bilchitz to use halachic sources to back up his opposition to this practice, when he himself does not observe halacha and engages in practices which these very authorities would roundly condemn.
  4. 5 Gary Selikow 06 Oct
    The Chief Rabbi of Israel Rav David Lau also opposes kapparot
  5. 4 Richard 06 Oct
    Lets do away with that ritual. We are in 21 Century
  6. 3 Caryn 07 Oct
    I absolutely support Professor Bilchitz. These are facts people don't want to think about. And if we don't have to do it, then let's not.
  7. 2 abu mamzer 07 Oct
    one settler,
    one pullet!
  8. 1 David 08 Nov
     We are members of ' arguably ' the oldest and original religion of peace on the globe today. Can we not find it in ourselves to make the effort to ensure nonsuffering to a bird that gives us quality of life.
    How can we ever justify transferring our transgressions to a chicken and then ritualising it's death ? It Does not make sense in this modern world , or any other for that matter. This suffering certainly cannot be argued by what is written in any 'book' .In the original tablets 8 commandments started with THOU SHALT NOT ---   only 2 commandments were in the positive.

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