Jewish Law Condemns Animal Cruelty, Yet Thousands of Chickens Are Abused and Killed Before Yom Kippur Every Year

While Jewish law condemns cruelty to animals, every year thousands of chickens are abused and killed in kapparot rituals on the eve of Yom Kippur. Factory farms transport chickens to kapparot sites in cramped, waste-ridden cages without giving the birds any food, water or shelter from the elements.

Many chickens die on the trip from dehydration, starvation, fear and exposure to high temperatures. Some birds even have their feet ripped off from the rough handling.

During the kapparot ritual, participants may lift and swing chickens by their legs or wings, even though it's common knowledge in the veterinary community that holding chickens by their wings inflicts immense pain. Next, a kosher slaughterer cuts open the chickens' necks and puts them in traffic cones to bleed out.

In the most crowded and rushed kapparot events, people helping the slaughterers have been observed pulling the heads off the bleeding chickens or stuffing them into garbage bags while they're still conscious. While kapparot organizers claim that the sites donate the dead chickens to feed the poor, eyewitness investigations have found that more than two-thirds of all the slaughtered birds are simply thrown in the trash.

Two of the most influential rabbis in the history of Judaism—Maimonides and Joseph Caro—both argued that kapparot should be abandoned, and today, many Orthodox Jews forgo abusing chickens in favor of waving money. The money is then donated to charity.

Take action: Urge rabbinical leadership to speak out against the practice of using chickens for kapparot and promote the use of money for atonement instead. 

Watch a video of our kapporos investigation in Brooklyn, New York:

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