On the eve of Yom Kippur
I made this drawing over the summer and posted it on Instagram. I didn’t get around to posting it here but am moved to do so today, having just learned of the awful plight of thousands of chickens here in New York City during this particular week. As Jews around the world observe the Days of Awe, the ten days of introspection and repentance between Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur, some in Ultra-Orthodox and Hasidic communities are performing “kaporos,” the ritual slaughter of tens of thousands of chickens on city streets. In keeping with the tradition, community members swing live chickens over their heads as they recite prayers, symbolically transferring their own sins to the chickens which are then slaughtered, sins and all. Ideally the chickens are then donated to needy families for food. In practice though the chickens often do not die with the first cut as Kosher law requires, and so are thrown in the garbage instead. Many instances of abuse have been documented over the years in connection with this ritual, not only in terms of the suffering caused by sometimes careless slaughter. The chickens are crowded into small plastic crates for days leading up to the ritual. They are exposed to the elements and given no food or water. The deaths of thousands of chickens from exposure and dehydration have been documented. A lawsuit which charges that kaporos violates a variety of NYS public health laws has been pending in court for several years now.
A small bright spot in this sad story: several of these chickens were rescued earlier this week and are being cared for upstate at the Woodstock Farm Sanctuary. This is an amazing nonprofit organization which depends on donations to provide care for their resident animals. You can find out more about what they do here if you'd like, and please make a donation if you can.