Attorneys File Case Against Jewish Leaders to Save Chickens from Jewish Atonement Ritual

Attorneys file federal case requesting a ban on slaughter of chickens for Jewish holiday Kapparot.

A lawsuit has been filed against Jewish leaders in Orange County by two attorneys who have accused them of being involved in animal cruelty. The upcoming Jewish holiday of Kapparot involves the sacrifice of chickens. This Jewish atonement ritual has become the target of the attorneys after people complained of the cruel conditions in which the chickens are kept before the ritual.

The lawsuit filed by attorneys David Simon and Bryan Pease seeks to put a ban on this ritual from a federal judge. The attorney has accused the Chabad of Irvine and a Rabbi of having violated animal protection rights by promoting what they have described as a “sickening” ritual. The Jewish leaders have countered the accusation saying it comes from people who are extremist animal-right groups and they have accused the complainants of trying to disrupt the community's religious practices.

The holiday of Kapparot is one that certain Jewish communities use to atone for their sins. The ritual has been part of the Jewish history for close to 2,000 years. During the ritual, a white chicken is circled around the head of the person three times. This is believed to transfer their sins to the chicken. The chicken is then slaughtered as per Kosher requirements, and the meat is distributed among people. Some other communities simply circle a bag of money of a chicken's worth over their heads and donate it to charitable causes.

During the days leading up to Kapparot, sellers line up with their chickens in cages. The attorneys claim these chickens are not treated well and are crammed in cages. They even add the chickens are not given food and water, observing there are even chickens who die in captivity due to such neglect. The complainants have affirmed they are not interested in disrupting the community's religious practices, but are only asking them to stop the practice of killing chickens. The complainants insist the community can switch to the practice of circling money around their heads instead of chickens.

The Jewish community insisted the Kosher method of slaughtering the chickens does not involve inflicting much pain. Leaders say the method used is humane.

A similar lawsuit filed last year was dismissed by Judge William D. Claster of the Orange County Superior Court for lack of evidence of cruel handling of the chickens.

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