For the first time last week, I visited an outdoor place that does kaparot with chickens. [Kaparot is a traditional pre-Yom Kippur ritual where a live chicken is waved over one’s head and then ritually slaughtered and eaten, mirroring similar sacrifices in the days of the Temple.]
I was horrified and appalled at what I saw. There were close to 50 people, many young families with small children waiting on line, ready to perform this ritual. The chickens were in small crates with bars lined up one on top of the other. They were taken out and held tightly by their wings, and then tossed around each head three times while squealing in a loud shrill voice that was pitiful to hear. Many of their wings were broken.
Parents were taking pictures of their children laughing while performing this horrifying, painful ritual.
The Torah teaches us to respect and have compassion, never causing animals to suffer. It teaches us that if one wants to take small birds from a mother’s nest, we have to send away the mother bird so that she doesn’t have the pain of seeing her children being taken away. It also teaches us that one is not permitted to plow a field with two animals of different strengths, because the weaker animal will suffer. The entire concept of shechita [the ritual slaughter of kosher animals] teaches us that the knife must be extra sharp, containing no nicks, so that the shechita causes minimal pain to the animal.
One can perform the ritual of kaparot with money for charity. Kaparot with chickens is an abomination and a horrible ritual. It must be stopped.