A strange sight appeared on the streets of Brooklyn on Friday. 300 crated Cornish Cross chickens were left in the intersection of Flushing Ave. and Williamsburg St. in South Williamsburg around 11:15 AM. It is assumed the crates of poultry fell off a delivery truck. The Animal Care Centers of New York City responded to the incident. 253 chickens were still alive after the ordeal, 30 had died, and 14 were taken for treatment at a veterinary hospital.
A spokesman for the organization told the media that they believed the chickens were intended for use in a pre-Yom Kippur Jewish ritual called Kapparot.
Kapparot (Literally ‘atonement’) is a ritual practiced by some Jews on the eve of Yom Kippur. The person recites the two biblical passages of Psalms 107:17–20 and Job 33:23–24, and then swings the live chicken over one’s head three times while reciting a short prayer three times The chicken is then slaughtered in accordance with halachic rules.It would then be given to a charity for consumption at the pre-Yom Kippur meal. Many people substitute money for chicken.
The practice has been criticized by major rabbis throughout the ages. Many scholars believe the ritual had pagan roots. The Israeli Ministry of Environmental Protection has requested that people refrain from using live animals and give charity in its place.
Katy Hansen of the Animal Care Centers told the New York Daily News that the slaughterhouse responsible for transporting the chickens declined to retrieve them. The report estimated that between 50,000 and 100,000 chickens are sacrificed each year for the ritual.
“Many chickens die from exposure, dehydration, and malnutrition while sitting outside without access to food or water, waiting, before anyone even uses them for the Kaporos ritual,” Hansen said.
An organization called, appropriately enough, The Alliance to End Chickens as Kaporos also came to the aid of the abandoned fowl. The organization has been working for over a decade to replace the use of chickens in Kaporos ceremonies with money or other non-animal symbols of atonement. The Alliance does not oppose Kaporos per se, only the cruel and unnecessary use of chickens in the ceremony.