As Kapparos, comes closer, the Jewish community is once split again by the question: should chickens continue to be used or not? Those who do not see a reason to stop using chickens for the ritual ask why it is even necessary to bring up this conversation. “We’ve been doing it for generations,” they say.
To my fellow Jews: Let this be a reminder that just because our community has been doing something doesn’t make it right or even that things haven’t changed since it’s beginning. Whether it’s animals commodified in animal agriculture or chickens used during Kapparos/Kapparot, the reality is that now we have the science & knowledge to back up that what is happening to animals currently is that of suffering & anguish.
Because of this, we have to reassess what’s been done/going on. Not just for the animals’ wellbeing, but according to Halacha (Jewish law), too- when new information is presented that can shine the light on potential violations of Jewish law, we should not be turning away.
Is the thought of our community being capable of mistakes & improving something we don’t want to look at?
Why would that be? We know Hashem (Gd) doesn’t create anyone perfect. So how could our communities be ones of perfection? Just like with humans, we are supposed to keep striving to improve, addressing & working on issues.
Sadly, it seems when the issues of animal suffering & potential Halachic (Jewish law) violations are brought up, the automatic response from community members & leaders alike it to either turn a blind eye or try to attempt justify it by pointing a finger at “worse issues.”
With chickens used for Kapparos specifically- there is animal suffering throughout. From where the chickens are coming from, to how they were genetically manipulated to be extra large, to how they are transported & contained until used for the ritual, to how they are held during the ritual, the lack of food/water given, & even the slaughter process at these mass sites- chickens are visually & audibly experiencing anguish.
On top of that, because of how they are treated, several issues arise with Jewish law- one being the commandment of Tzaar Baali Chaim (to not cause unnecessary animal suffering) & “Tzmikas haRaiyah” -shrinking of the lung, which can be caused when chickens experience fear & can lead to violations of multiple laws.
There are other potential violations of Jewish laws that can come into play during Kapparos:
- “Creating a stumbling block” that people participating are unknowingly hurting animals.
- “Misleading a fellow Jew” -in some locations, practitioners at Kapparos sites are under the belief that the chickens they are using will go to the poor to be eaten (a big part of the atonement process of Kapparos). Footage has been taken, time & time again, both in Israel & the Diaspora that chickens are commonly just simply thrown in the trash.
- Chillul Hashem (desecrating the name of Gd)- when chickens are suffering & there are unsanitary conditions from public slaughter (with blood & body parts on the street), it leads to a negative perception of Jews & a Torah-observant life. Negative media coverage is the first thing to come up when you type in “Kapparos” on Google, further proving that the rest of the world is watching what is happening & with dismay.
It’s on us, members of the community to take a stand. Take a stand for animals’ wellbeing. Take a stand for the importance of improving oneself & one’s community. For us to not turn a blind eye to serious issues because we’d rather not take a look, but rather specifically raise the issue.
Jews will be gathering in Brooklyn this Kapparos to speak up for chickens used this year & to create that dialogue in the community. If you would like to join, more information can be found here.
Take a stand this year & join the conversation to better improve our community!