Winter 2014 Poultry Press NEXT
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UPC Activists Rally to Eliminate Chickens in Kaporos Rituals
“Animal cruelty protests, legal actions continue over Jewish ‘Kapporos’ ritual,” Brooklyn Daily Eagle

protestors against kaporos
Photo by Matthew Taub, Brooklyn Daily Eagle
Karen Davis holds the young chicken Alliance activist Dawn Ladd named Starlet
during our Press Briefing in Brooklyn, Oct. 1, 2014. That's Dawn raising a sign
behind Karen on the left. Alliance activist Rina Deych is on the extreme right.

“We are here to draw attention to the fact that chickens are needlessly being subjected to extreme cruelty by Kaporos practitioners, all while numerous health laws are being broken,” Karen Davis, president of United Poultry Concerns, told the crowd. – Brooklyn Daily Eagle

The Alliance to End Chickens as Kaporos – a project of United Poultry Concerns – hosted three two-hour protests and a press briefing in the Crown Heights district of Brooklyn, New York this year in response to the inhumane “swinging” and slaughtering of chickens in Kaporos rituals the week before Yom Kippur (October 3, 2014), the Jewish Day of Atonement.

Kaporos, meaning “atonements,” is a custom observed by many but not all ultraorthodox communities in New York, New Jersey, Los Angeles, Florida, Jerusalem and elsewhere these communities are located. It is a public ritual conducted under tents erected on sidewalks and school grounds, in parking lots or fenced yards. “It can be a small rickety affair or a humongous horror show like the one in Crown Heights. It goes on for hours, often all night until dawn, as one chicken after another is pulled from a crate, waved over the head of the adult practitioner, infant or child, and then slaughtered,” Karen Davis wrote in her oped article, “Stop this chicken torture,” published by the New York Daily News on Oct. 1, 2014.

Though claimed to be given to “the poor,” most of the birds are stuffed dead and alive in plastic trash bags for city sanitation workers to haul to landfills. “The cries of the chickens rise above the scene of carnage and mayhem in the streets until all of them are dead or are left dying in dumpsters,” said Davis in her New York Daily News oped.

“In 2010, I founded the Alliance to End Chickens as Kaporos, after witnessing years of Kaporos horrors,” Davis told the press this year. “As more and more animal rights activists get involved, and with legal challenges in the works, many Orthodox rabbis are publicly condemning Kaporos on grounds of animal cruelty and sacrilege.”

Kaporos Practitioners Violate Animal Cruelty Laws and Public Health Codes

The fact that the sale and slaughter of chickens during Kaporos is connected to a religious ritual does not exempt it from local and state laws. Many laws are broken in New York even as police stand by.

While New York State Anti-Cruelty Law Article 26 requires animals to have fresh food, water, and protection from the weather, chickens used for Kaporos are held for days in transport crates stacked on the streets, trapped in their own waste with no food, water, or protection from the weather. “‘It violates Jewish teachings requiring compassion for animals,’ said Karen Davis, president of United Poultry Concerns, a nonprofit that has been battling the practice since 1994,” the New York Daily News reported on Sept. 29, 2014.

karen holds starlet
Photo by Lisa Renz
Karen Davis holds Starlet while speaking at
our Press Briefing, Oct. 1, 2014. 

Many other laws are broken at Kaporos sites, including public health codes that prohibit sellers of live poultry from leaving chicken blood, feces and feathers on the sidewalk and street. It is illegal to pile up dead animals on the street prior to their disposal. But in 2014 as in previous years, witnesses saw dead chickens on the public streets of Brooklyn.

Alliance member Rina Deych says: “Every year I see chickens thrown into dumpsters. Not just dead ones but also birds who are dying of dehydration, injury, exhaustion and pain. We have footage of live chickens writhing on the ground with their throats cut and being thrown into plastic garbage bags by Kaporos butchers in Brooklyn.”

At the press briefing on Oct. 1 in Crown Heights, Karen Davis cited the New York law that says, “People who enter any premises containing live poultry within the State of New York shall take every sanitary precaution possible to prevent the introduction or spread of avian influenza into or within the State.” This law includes disinfecting all footwear before entering and after leaving any premises containing live poultry.

“All sites we observed were filthy,” Davis said. “There were dead chickens, blood and feathers on the sidewalk. People entering Kaporos areas, where thousands of chickens were stacked in crates and slaughtered, left without disinfecting footwear and carried chicken feces outside of the Kaporos area.”

This year, as in 2013, the Alliance to End Chickens as Kaporos featured moving illuminated billboards on a van projecting the voice of Hasidic Rabbi Yonassan Gershom explaining why suspending chickens by their wings is cruel and why using chickens for Kaporos violates the Torah mandate to show compassion to animals. In Kaporos: A Heartfelt Plea for Mercy, Rabbi Gershom implores: “Please do not torture a bird this way – this is not a mitzvah, our Torah does not require this, it will not cancel your sins. I beg you, please give money, instead of hurting one of God’s living creatures.”

This year, for the first time, the Alliance hired an investigator to track the activities associated with the rituals, and attorneys Nora Constance Marino and Jessica H. Astrof submitted a Cease and Desist Order to the Supreme Court Judge of Kings County, New York on behalf of Rina Deych and co-plaintiff Elizabeth Knauer, naming the New York City Police Department and four rabbis as defendants.

Though the Judge did not sign the Order, a positive precedent has been set. Courthouse News Service reported on Oct. 2, 2014: “Crown Heights resident Rina Deych filed the action Tuesday in Kings County Court as a member of the Alliance to End Chickens as Kaporos.”

The 33-page complaint defines Kaporos as “an event that involves the torture and slaughter of chickens on public streets and sidewalks.”

“It is veiled under the guise of a ‘religious activity’ of the Jewish faith, but this definition is questionable at best,” the complaint continues. “In fact, many observers of the Jewish faith have denounced this practice as barbaric and primitive, and label it as nothing more than a pure act of animal torture and abuse.”

This year, Alliance activists rescued 341 Kaporos chickens who are now living happily in loving sanctuaries. You can see a short video of several of them running around outdoors at

kaporos chickens stacked in crates
Photo by Joan Harrison
Thousands of starving chickens are jammed inside these crates
for the Kaporos slaughter in Crown Heights, Brooklyn.

what_can_i_do (10K)

If you are a member of the Jewish community, please urge your rabbi and others to speak out against the use of chickens in Kaporos rituals. Most Kaporos observers swing a packet of money which they then donate to their favorite charity.

Please support our campaign to eliminate the use of chickens in Kaporos rituals in 2015 with a generous tax-deductible donation. On behalf of the chickens, we thank you very much!

Alliance to End Chickens as Kaporos Campaign Expenditures 2014
The MPM Group (Private Investigator) $6,300.00
Scheck Outdoor (Moving Illuminated Billboards) 3,500.00
Rented Enterprise Chicken Rescue Van 637.00
Court Filings, Copying & Messenger Fees 465.00
J Media Group: Flatbush Jewish Journal & 5 Towns Jewish Times 600.00
PR Newswire National Press Release Distribution 2,030.00
Tellem Grody Public Relations 10,000.00

Total: $23,532.00
rescued from kaporos
Photo by Richard Cundari
A group of happy rescued Kaporos chickens at
And-Hof Animal Sanctuary for Farm Animals in Catskill, New York.
Winter 2014 Poultry Press NEXT