This Friday, as Yom Kippur begins, some orthodox Jewish people will practice a ritual called “Kapparot” (also spelled “Kaparot” or “Kaparos”) in which they’ll swing a live chicken around their heads three times in order to transfer their sins to it. Because that makes perfect sense. Afterwards, they’ll slaughter the chicken and supposedly donate it to the poor (though the chicken is often just disposed of).
I’m vegetarian, but what drew me to this issue wasn’t the slaughter (maybe I’m just immune to that by now)… it was that the swinging of the chickens around the head is arguably causing them pain. As this video suggests to those practicing the ritual, “You have been told that holding a chicken by its wings that way will make the bird calm and relaxed. This is not true! The bird is terrified…”
What makes this ritual particularly puzzling is that a chicken isn’t even required. You could easily just substitute a small bag of coins instead. So why not just do that? It makes no sense to me.
As it turns out, there’s a group working to end the use of chickens in this ritual, appropriately called the Alliance to End Chickens as Kaporos (which is part of a larger organization called United Poultry Concerns).