Kapparot "Broiler" Chickens
Written by Cherylynn Brown on September 18, 1997
for the attention of Rabbi Levitanski and his
This report is accompanied by photographs and video documentation of the Kapparot 1996. I have
included literature to assist in an in-depth understanding of why the chickens that you used were in
poor health and present serious questions as to whether such chickens could be considered kosher on
any day of the year, much less a sacred Jewish holiday.
This report is designed to open up discussions and may easily be supported by more descriptions and
visual documents upon request. My intense involvement in the past year with the chickens changed
me and many people who met them. Most of us had no idea how extensively damaged the chickens as
a species have become as a result of human manipulation. Please understand that although the
following is not easy to read, even ugly to think about, the intention is to constructively use this
information to improve the situation. I write to foster understanding of who the chickens are and to
explore our moral responsibility to them.
I was living in Santa Monica, California, across the street from Rabbi Levitanski on the night of the
slaughter called Kapparot. On the morning of Friday, September 19, 1996 I entered the Kapparot shed
with the Rabbi's son. Inside were approximately 200 large chicks about 7 weeks old. Their youth is
evident from the video that I shot where you can clearly see their small combs and waddles and hear
their chirping baby voices.
Their white feathers had urine and feces covering them so that they were a dark yellow-brown. They
had obviously lived in filth for a long period of time. Filth had crystallized on their feathers into hard
stones along their undersides. When I found them, they were wet from lying on the plastic covering of
the concrete floor that was covered with urine, feces, and blood.
Of the five holding pens, only two had containers of drinking water - and those were brown, full of
excretions. I immediately asked that they receive fresh water in all of the enclosures. The children
present were happy to fetch bottles of clean water for them. I brought over a bag of scratch grain and
distributed it to the birds. Dozens of the chickens were unable to stand or walk to get to the water or
food. These birds remained sitting motionless or trembling from their cold damp feathers and physical
pain. Others were frustrated at not having the strength to stand and walk. Many had deep wounds cut
into their flesh. Chickens sometimes bite each other due to the stress and shock of having been
deprived of food and water. The sight of these chickens bleeding in filth sickened both the Rabbi's
children and myself. We saw that the birds were dying and in desperate states of neglect.
Photo by: Cherylynn Brown
Chickens in Rabbi Levitanski’s backyard shed
Rabbi Samson Raphael Hirsch, an outstanding 19th century philosopher, author and Torah
commentator states in section Horeb, chapter 60, #416
"There are probably no creatures that require more the protective Divine word against the
presumption of man than the animals, which like man have sensations and instincts, but
whose body and powers are nevertheless subservient to man. In relation to them man so
easily forgets that injured animal muscle twitches just like human muscle, that the maltreated
nerves of an animal sicken like human nerves, that the animal being is just as sensitive to
cuts, blows, and beatings as man. Thus man becomes the torturer of the animal soul, which
has been subjected to him only for the fulfillment of humane and wise purposes."
I grew up with Jewish friends in Beverly Hills. I could not imagine how this cruelty could be tolerated
by any of the Jewish people that I know. I insisted on meeting with Rabbi Levitanski about the pain
and suffering of these chicks. I was told that an effort was being made to contact the Rabbi for me.
I asked for permission to remove the dead birds from the area so that the living birds didn't have to
smell their decaying bodies. My wish was granted. I filled four large boxes with corpses of sadly
swollen purple bodies that were sprawled across the floor and in a pile in the corner where they were
covered by live birds who clung to them. I had to bring a friend to lift two of the boxes because they
were too heavy for me to pick up. My friend almost threw up from the smell and sight of the
gruesome corpses and he did not want to touch the box. I pleaded for him to take the boxes to the
dumpsites for the sake of the living birds and to throw the dead away. The bird on the bottom of the
pile I took home and buried.
Word came back from the Rabbi that the rest of the chickens would not be slaughtered at the house out
of respect for the feelings of my pet chickens who lived across the street. He would not be able to
meet with me soon and was uncertain whether any more chickens would be needed for Kapparot this
year. They were expected to return to the "farm." I asked if they would consider letting the remaining
birds live out their lives in peace at a ranch in Malibu. His response was that another slaughter was to
take place and he did not know if there would be any chickens left.
I persisted with my concern about the suffering of the existing chickens. I asked if it would be
possible for me to have the chickens who were obviously dying. I pointed to several large bloated
featherless purple bodies with wet backs and shallow breathing. I was told that as long as they were
breathing they had to be used for sacrifice. Yet they were almost dead. To die there or on the sunny
grass in my yard made little difference in some ways, but the thought of someone eating these animals,
as food, scared me to my bones. The next day when I returned to assist in the care of the birds, every
one of purple swollen bodies had died exactly where I last saw them.
Amos 5:21-24 "I hate, I despise your feasts…
The peace offerings of your fattened beasts I will not look upon…
But let justice roll down like waters, and
righteousness like an ever flowing stream."
There I stood with the Rabbi's son as both of us faced a strange need for change in this predicament of
a "straight-jacket" hold of an old family custom. He told me that he himself was a vegetarian and
quite aware of the damage that poultry production has done to the environment and human health as
well as factory farming's violations of the natural behavioral patterns of farm animals. But, he said he
felt there was nothing he could do because this project belonged to his family. There was a pause of
silence as we observed the starving birds return to eating one another. The bag I brought could not
feed all of these birds. Some chickens pathetically tried to refresh themselves with a "dust bath" of
manure mud on the plastic liner.
Proverbs 12:10 states that "the righteous person regards the soul of his or her beast."
145:9 states that "The lord is good to all, and His tender mercies are over all His creatures."
There had to be a way for at least a little mercy to happen on this day for some of these poor creatures.
The Rabbi's son felt certain that Jewish law states that in order for an animal to be rated Kosher, the
animal could not have an open bleeding cut. He said that because of this law, he knew his Father
would not be able to use any of the birds who had the open bloody sores. He offered boxes for me to
take the bleeding birds as long as I stopped at sun down, which was soon.
I grabbed the filthy boxes laced with blood and filled them with birds to take across the street. One
hen died in my hands as I put her in the box (see photo of her body.) Four had bones exposed up to ¾
of an inch. Only one, Julie, lived. The others would be diagnosed with chronic pain and irreversible
injury, due to swollen bones. These birds were prescribed euthanasia at Center Sinai Animal Hospital
on Saturday. Along with open sores and exposed bones one hen had a completely gangrene wing that
had started bleeding from ruptured swollen tissue. Many suffered from respiratory problems and had
yellow pus marks on their skin. One bird was completely blind and several could not stand or walk.
All of them suffered from stress, fatigue, diarrhea and dehydration. (Please see video)
By Saturday two more birds had died and I spent the morning nursing the wounds and stabilizing the
flock. I took four birds with severely damaged wings to my veterinarian, Dr. Spira. All four had to be
put to sleep for broken - swollen bones and protruding bones causing chronic pain that would never
heal (see doctor's report).
Photo by: Cherylynn Brown
Chickens in Rabbi Levitanski’s backyard shed
Saturday at the Shed
It was later in the afternoon when I returned to Rabbi Levitansky's' house after tending to the
chickens. I was greeted by his family, as the Rabbi was out. I gathered the newly dead birds and
carried the boxes to the dumpsite. I cleaned their water and brought more scratch. In desperation for
food, many birds were eating parts of other living birds. Again I was allowed to carry the birds with
bloody sores home as long as I stopped by sundown. Again this meant that several remained there to
bleed and be eaten alive. Sundown quickly came and my time was up. I said good-bye to the birds
that remained never to see them again. Mrs. Levitansky and her family were dressed up for the
synagogue and we wished each other a good evening. She is a very warm-hearted woman and I was
always happy to be her friend and neighbor. She seemed distressed about the situation in her front
yard and she thanked me for taking care of these birds. Later, she she told me that she thought
"something was wrong with the birds when they arrived." She said, "I always thought that chickens
are supposed to be lively and run around, but these birds could hardly stand. They were sad and sorry
to look at." Yet it seemed that the family members felt powerless to stand up to the rest of the family
and speak their mind. For that reason, they were almost glad that I came forward and took a stand on
behalf of the chickens. I felt that in their hearts, they wished they would have done more for these
Suffering Bodies, Suffering Birds are a Wrong Sacrifice
Alternatives to Kapparot
Although I am a non-Jew, I present the following quotes and questions to you
with the understanding that the creator that gave life to me and my parents is the same
creator that created you and yours. A Rabbis' relationship with our creator directly
influences hundreds, thousands, even millions of people in his lifetime, affecting their
fulfillment of G-D's' work and expression here on Earth. I pray I have found the proper
Torah Talmudic passages and other text so that we can have a meeting of minds.
I asked the author, Dr. Richard H. Schwartz, if there is an alternative to Kapparot that
could be substituted at the Chabad on 17th Street in S. Monica for their 1997 Yom
Kippur and Rosh Hashanah? Dr. Schwartz explained that Kapparot is not biblically or
talmudically ordained. (as it is not tsa'ar ba'alei chayim). Rather the custom arose at a
later period in Jewish history. Many Jewish sages have condemned kapparot. They
emphasized that repentance and charity can be more meaningfully conducted by
substituting money for a bird. Consistent with Rosh Hashanah as a time when Jews
"awaken from slumber and mend our ways," using money for the Kapparot ritual shows
that we are putting the Torah teachings into practice. Acts of kindness and charity are
consistent with G-d's "delighting in life" on Rosh Hashanah, and, unlike the kapparot
ceremony, does not involve the suffering and death of animals.
Please consider that Hashem's covenants with animals is just as with humans.
Genesis 9:1-10, Hashem says "As for me," says the lord,
"behold I establish My covenant with you and with your seed after you,
and with every living creature that is with you, the fowl, the cattle, and
with every beast of the Earth with you; all that go out of the ark, even
every beast of the Earth."
"And in that day will I make a covenant for them with the beasts of
the field and with the fowls of heaven and with the creeping things of the
ground. And I will break the bow and the sword and the battle out of the
land and I will make them lie down safely." Hosea 2:20
Dr. Richard Schwartz. says in his paper entitled Frequently Asked Questions
about Judaism and Animal Issues:
question # 4. How are farm animals treated today?
As we have seen, the Jewish tradition stresses compassion for animals
and commands that we strive to avoid causing them pain (tsa' ar ba' alei
chayim). Unfortunately, the conditions under which animals are raised for
food today are quite different from any laws the Torah would endorse.
Chickens are raised for slaughter in long, windowless, crowded sheds,
where they never see sunlight, breath fresh air, or get any exercise.
From hoppers suspended from the roof, they obtain food and water,
along with many chemical additives according to a programmed
schedule. Crowding is so bad that chickens cannot even stretch their
wings. The results of these very unnatural conditions are potential
feather pecking and cannibalism.
Because so many birds are killed daily in continuous operations
by the vast breeding companies, a prayer that should be recited upon the
ritual slaughter of every bird has become a prayer for every thousand
5. Summarize the Inconsistencies Between How Animals are raised
today and Jewish Values?
As the previous examples indicate, the conditions under which animals
are raised today go completely counter to Jewish ideals of compassion
and the requirement to avoid tsa'ar ba'alei chayim. Instead of animals
being free to graze on the Sabbath day to enjoy the beauties of creation,
they are confined for all of their lives to darkened, crowded cells without
air, natural light, or the ability to exercise. Whereas the Torah mandates
that animals should be able to eat the products of the harvest as they
thresh in the fields, today animals are given chemical fatteners and other
additives in their food, based on computer programs…
Jews who continue to eat meat raised under such conditions help to
support a system which is contrary to basic Jewish principles and
6. Don't the laws of shechita provide for a humane
slaughterer of animals so we need not be concerned with the
violations of Tsa'ar ba'alei chayim?
It is true that shechita has been found in scientific tests conducted
in the United States and other Countries to be a relatively painless
method of slaughter. But can we consider only the final minutes of an
animal's life? What about the tremendous pain and cruelty involved in
the entire process of raising and transporting animals? When the
consumption of meat is not necessary and is even harmful to people's
health can any method of slaughter be humane? Is this not a
contradiction in terms?
17. Aren't animals raised for the kosher food market treated more
compassionately than other food animals?
Unfortunately, animals raised for the kosher food market are
raised under the same conditions as non-kosher animals. It is only the
process of slaughter that differs.
For these reasons the gift of money is a better symbol to be used for a ceremony whose
purpose, according to Rabbi Levitansky is to "awaken in a person the urge to do correct
repentance." Judging from the statements of Maimonidnes, R. Judah ha-Shid, Rabbi
Samson Raphael Hirsch and Rabbi Kook, if they were alive today they would certainly be
against the practice of kapparot.
Isiah 1:11 "What to me is the multitude of your sacrifices? Sayeth the
Lord; I have had enough burnt offerings of rams and the fat of fed
beasts. I do not delight in the blood of bull, or of lambs, or of he-goats."
Mediterranean Jews use another ceremony called Parpisa in their celebration of Hashem's
creation of the world. Parpise is done with a basket for every child in the household
which is filled with earth and loam; then planted in the baskets are seeds wheat, barley, or
various kinds of beans a few weeks before Rosh Hashanah (weaving the basket by hand is
optional). The seeds grow a few handbreadths high. Each child takes a basket and
swings the basket around his or her head seven times and recites: "This instead of me,
this is my proxy, this is my substitute"--and casts it into the river.
Healing Sick Birds
Months passed as I waited for my meeting with Rabbi Levitansky. In the mean-time I tended to the healing of the chickens, and watched them die as many were beyond
hope. All along I was rewarded with the tender delights of seeing these babies learn to
live and enjoy sunshine and fresh food for the first time and in knowing that the ones who
died got to do so with dignity. Each one had a distinct personality and moved at their
own pace. A few that were paralyzed received medical care and holistic therapies and
learned to walk and run! What had I gotten myself into, I wondered. I had four chickens
already, (Hillary, Winter, Cupid and Bonnie Lad) who had frequently played with the
Rabbi's children. They even appeared together once in the Santa Monica Outlook
Newspaper (volume 2, No. 17 April 19 - May 16, 1996 p..31). Ironically Hillary Chicken
had even starred in a children's play at the shul about kindness to animals.
Since at this time I knew nothing about this type of chicken, I contacted Karen Davis,
Ph.D., President of United Poultry Concerns and author of several books that pertain to
the modern poultry industry. I explained my situation and the terrible condition of the
birds. Although I intended to take them to a ranch in Malibu, they would need to be
stabilized and somewhat healthy before I could leave them anywhere. Karen spent hours
on the telephone with me helping me to understand why these birds seemed to be
"Chickens and turkeys are foraging birds unsuited to the life we
impose on them in order to satisfy human wants in the modern world. An
example is the forced rapid growth of their bodies for meat production,
causing them to incur severe skeletal and metabolic pathologies. Yet, a
major thrust of genetic engineering is to increase their abnormal growth
rate even more for the meat industry," Karen Davis, Ph.D. The Ethics of
Genetic Engineering and the Futuristic Fate of Domestic Fowl.
To my surprise, the crippled birds who struggled to perform many basic bodily
functions, such as breathing, walking, being able to see, etc., were only the status quo of
modern "broiler chickens" of which mine were typical examples. Karen Davis' advice to
me first off was to let the chickens spread out in my yard, give them at least a week or
two to relax, make a variety of foods available to them including plenty of fresh green
leafy plants, and plenty of water.
I daily cleaned their wounds with hydrogen peroxide and antibiotic ointment
Their water was kept clean and had vitamins mixes in. Dr. Spira prescribed antibiotics to
chickens with Marek's disease, e-coli bacteria and other pathogens diagnosed from blood
laboratory tests. Injections of B vitamins were administered to repair the nerve damage
of several others. Even with doctor's care they continued to die until I had sixteen left
from thirty in two weeks. Seven roosters and two hens went to the Malibu Ranch and the
seven others were too sick and needed special care. As the chickens that stayed at my
house died, I brought back the two hens and three of the roosters from Malibu.
I learned so much about the spirit of living creatures from these birds. As they received
love and attention their will to live came forth and was a blessing from G-d to observe.
Although many died too quickly for me to get to know them personally, the following
had lived long enough to become my friends:
For a week Dusty showed her spirit and courage even while the thickness
developed in her chest. It seemed that her lungs filled up with fluid, even so, she died
with some dignity in a loving place.
Napoleon had no feeling in her feet and could not stand or walk and after a month of
consistent care walked and then ran. I was overwhelmed with excitement when she took
a large piece of dried bread away from my three leghorn roosters dashing here and there
until she got it into the house where she devoured it. Dr. Spira said that "her recovery
was a miracle."
A hen named Harlow was unable to walk and dragged her body as she flapped her
wings, also learned to walk and have quite a personality.
Oscar had no feathers and severe orthopedic problems and became a handsome young
rooster with enough feathers to cover most of his body and a strong spirit to hang in with
the flock regardless of his swollen joints and restricted neck and leg movements.
Julie had a bone of her wing exposed, and as it healed she slowly regained her
self-confidence. She was truly a love bird with the sweetest, most amiable nature. She
died from being overweight with intestinal and digestive obstructions.
Olivia was a quiet but affectionate hen who would always like to sit with me
when-ever possible. When she died, she slowly turned purple over a period of two weeks
until one day, she suddenly lunged at my feet and died from an apparent heart attack.
Eric and Flash were best friend roosters who died about a month apart from
intestinal and crop congestive complications and bumble foot.
Bernard was a very gentle spirit who always did what I wanted him to do and I exhibited
him at several public events because he was always so well behaved, one day recently I
found him laying dead on the ground like he just fell asleep, it seemed to be from obesity.
Henry and Natasha are the sole survivors of last years Kapparot, every day I know
it may be their last, and every day I thank the creator for all that I experienced while
being with these chickens.
These rescued birds became part of my flock family. In time I got to know them
individually and I developed a love for them. Their ability to express themselves and to
return loving gestures when treated with kindness came through in a Universal language.
I have no doubt that each bird has a soul and a connection in spirit to the same creator of
my own flesh and blood, as well as yours. In spirit each of these unique creatures live on
in my heart and inspire me to strive for the same strength that they exhibited so clearly in
their lives. Their enrichment of my life has been a gift to me from G-d. Do you agree
with me that G-d included chickens when he spoke in the following passage.
Genesis 1: 20-23 G-d said, "let the waters bring forth swarms of
living creatures, and birds that fly above the Earth across the expanse of
sky." And G-d created the great sea creatures, and all the living
creatures of every kind that creep, which the waters brought forth in
swarms, and all the winged birds of every kind. And G-d saw that this
was good. G-d blessed them, saying, "Be fertile and increase, fill the
waters in the sea, and let the birds increase on the Earth." And there
was evening and there was morning, a fifth day."
One hen, Esther Morgan was flown to Maryland and lived with Karen Davis for
several months until she died. When the Doctor opened her up for examination he found
several eggs with their shells compacted in her stomach. Esther Morgan was a very
lovable hen who loved to perch in high places and liked to be to herself much of the time.
I was happy that she was able to enjoy her life at United Poultry Concerns for as long as
she did. Karen Davis was very fond of her, as was I, and we will always cherish her
Karen Davis, Ph D., who adopted Esther Morgan and taught me to understand the
rest of the birds that came into my life literally overnight, is an expert in the studies of
chickens. You can also familiarize yourself with the truth of innate sickness and diseases
of broiler chickens by reading chapter 4 of her book Prisoned Chickens Poisoned Eggs.
I thought you would also be interested in reading a summary of a paper that Karen Davis
presented at the Ethics of Genetic Engineering and Animal Patents Conference, at the
University of Wisconsin, October 12, 1996 (see attached). Having taken into her home
one of your hens, I am sure that she would be happy to answer any of your questions.
Karen Davis' telephone number is 757-678-7875, or e-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org.
I have much more that I can say and show in videos and photographs concerning
these beautiful creations of G-d. I am ready and willing to talk for these animals at your
earliest convenience. I also look forward to a continued friendship with the Levitansky
family in the years to come. They are beautiful people and I appreciate their willingness
and availability to research and discuss Kapparot and alternatives to Kapparot with me in
the near future, and for allowing me to visit the chickens last year to participate in a
rescue that has changed my life and my feelings of respect for chickens forever.
I pray that this information will foster discussion and lead as Rabbi Levitansky suggested
to a Beth Din.