Kaporos/Kapparot is a sacrificial religious tradition practiced by some Orthodox and Hasidic Jews. This ritual is performed just before Yom Kippur, a Jewish holiday in early fall focusing on the cleansing of one’s sins. Every year, over 50,000 six-week-old Cornish Cross chickens (chickens bred for rapid growth and early slaughter on industrial chicken farms) are grabbed by their fragile wings and legs, swung overhead, and then are killed or, more often, left for dead on the streets and in trash cans. 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.
People who practice Kaporos believe that they are transferring their sins from the preceding year to a live chicken, and, by sacrificing the chicken, thereby absolve themselves of those sins for the future. Practitioners of the Kaporos ritual often claim that the slaughtered chickens are donated to charities that provide food for the homeless; however, it is clear that this claim is mostly untrue, as animal rights activists often find dead chickens in trash cans and regularly discover chickens still alive, mixed in among the dead.
Peaceful Fields Sanctuary is committed to providing a safe, forever home to Kaporos survivors each year, as we have since 2017.
At Peaceful Fields, each of these unique individuals are loved and are free to heal from the physical and emotional trauma they have experienced at their own pace.
Here is John, our founder, with Henrietta, a Kaporos survivor rescued in 2019, discussing the ritual:
We fight for the day when chickens are no longer used in Kaporos rituals.
At Peaceful Fields, our reasons are threefold:
1) The use of chickens as Kaporos is cruel and violates tza‘ar ba‘alei chayim, the Jewish mandate prohibiting cruelty to animals.
These chickens suffer in being packed into crates, often for days without food or water leading up to the ritual; they suffer in being swung over the heads of practitioners; and they suffer during slaughter and abandonment and disposal in the streets.
2) The use of chickens as Kaporos is not required by Jewish law.
It is not a mitzvah (a “commandment”), but rather a custom that originated in the Middle Ages.
3) There are acceptable alternatives that don’t rely on animal cruelty, such as using money (coins), instead of live chickens.
Plus, funds used can be given to charity afterwards. Many Jewish people already use money instead of chickens and some don’t take part in the ritual at all.
Most of the +50,000 chickens used in this ritual are killed or die shortly thereafter as their bodies and psyches cannot endure the damage and trauma they have experienced. Some die while receiving emergency care from rescuers and most live very shortened lifespans, even after coming to the safety of the Sanctuary.
However, those lucky few who do come to Peaceful Fields often go on to lead full, beautiful lives, and at the very least, get a chance to live their lives with true freedom and abundance that most of their brethren will never see.
Please join us in celebrating these Kaporos survivors we are honored to welcome into Sanctuary life:
The cost to care for these chickens can range dramatically. Some have broken wings and crushed toes that will never properly heal. In addition to specialized medical care, those special needs chickens must have their own protected space, separate from the rest of our flock, which further adds to the cost of their care.
All of our animal residents depend on generous donors and sponsors like you, and these Kaporos survivors will need all the extra care and support we can provide over their lifetime.
On behalf of these sweet Kaporos chickens, thank you for supporting their care!
Special thanks to Adopt-A-Kaporos Survivor and Alliance to End Chickens as Kaporos, our partners in this fight to end chickens as Kaporos.