Rare good news on a grim anniversary
NEW YORK, N.Y.––Twenty years after al Qaida terrorists on September 11, 2001 hijacked four airliners and crashed two of them into the twin towers of the World Trade Center in Manhattan, killing 2,763 people, tens of thousands of New Yorkers awakened to a good news story.
Chickens, slaughtered in the U.S. at the rate of about 1.1 billion per year, seldom make headlines. Chicken rescue wins attention even more seldom.
300 hens dumped accidentally
But on the morning of September 11, 2021, less than two weeks after the U.S. retreat from Afghanistan ended 20 years of warfare that began with the attempt to capture al Qaida terrorist mastermind Osama bin Laden, a chicken rescue gave New Yorkers something to smile about––at least until many of them tucked into breakfasts of eggs and bacon.
At about 11:15 a.m. the day before, summarized New York Daily News reporter Elizabeth Keogh of an Animal Care Centers of New York media release, “Animal rights activists raced to a busy Brooklyn intersection where hundreds of chickens were abandoned after they fell from a delivery truck.
“About 300 crated Cornish Cross chickens were discovered on Flushing Avenue and Williamsburg Street,” Keogh continued.
The chickens, Animal Care Centers of New York believed, “were intended for use in the Orthodox Jewish ritual known as Kaporos.
“Kaporos,” Keogh explained, “is performed by swinging a chicken around one’s head three times while reciting a prayer for forgiveness before slitting the chicken’s throat. The practice is done on the eve of Yom Kippur, the holiest day in the Jewish calendar.”
Originating in eastern Europe, Kaporos is practiced only by a small minority of the ultra-conservative Hassidic branch of Judaism. At that, Kaporos is practiced in public chiefly in New York City, Los Angeles, Chicago, and some cities in Israel, with small and mostly private observances among Hassidic communities elsewhere.
“It is estimated between 50,000 and 100,000 chickens are sacrificed each year during Kaporos.” Keogh wrote.
“Many chickens die waiting”
“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,” Animal Care Centers spokesperson Katy Hansen told Keogh.
Added Keogh, “The owner of the slaughterhouse responsible for transporting the chickens declined to rescue them, said Hansen.”
Altogether, Hansen said, the rescuers recovered 253 live chickens, 14 of them injured, and 30 dead chickens, several of whom appear to have been dead even before the accident.
Elaborated Jill Carnegie of the Alliance to End Chickens as Kaporos, “The Official NYC Kaporos Team were the first responders. Multiple crates of baby chickens had fallen off a transport truck making a sharp turn,” apparently hitting the curb. Nearly 250 birds were running loose in the streets [or were] trapped in direct hot sun,” still in plastic crates.
50 loose chickens to the car
“Our team assessed and triaged every bird, and dove under trucks in the busy road to make sure every single chicken was safe,” Carnagie said.
“Thank you to Allie Feldman Taylor of Voters For Animal Rights,” Carnegie specified, “for alerting us and acting quickly at the scene, in addition to our other skillful volunteers. We are now partnering with Animal Care Centers of NYC to place the birds in good homes and get them the care they need.”
Emailed Taylor herself, “Two Voters For Animal Rights board members,” believed to be Michelle Aptman and Mikey Dee, “loaded their car with approximately 50 chickens each, while Animal Care Centers was able to transport hundreds after the incredibly quick and efficient injury checks by the Kind Kaporos team.
“Grateful to quick-thinking bystander”
“We’re grateful to the quick-thinking bystander,” Taylor said, “who contacted Voters For Animal Rights for assistance, and the teams from NYCACC and Kind Kaporos, for making sure that these chickens received prompt assistance. But situations like these happen all too frequently,” Taylor noted, “and the chickens who remained on the truck will suffer a terrible fate.”
Carnagie posted to Facebook that the Alliance to End Chickens as Kaporos had raised $10,000 to help fund the chicken rescue, care, and rehoming.
“Some of the Kaporos survivors from NYC are already making it to their forever homes,” Carnagie said.
Animal Nation, of Rye, New York, took in 120 of the chickens, posting that, “Permanent placement has been secured for them all at various sanctuaries along the East Coast. Thank you Happy Heart-Happy Home Farm and Rescue, Twist of Fate Farm and Sanctuary and Rancho Relaxo.”
Kaporos in 2001
Animal advocacy protests against Kaporos had already been staged in New York City for at least a decade before September 2001. Kaporos began in New York City that year on September 21.
Wrote United Poultry Concerns founder Karen Davis then, “While ‘chicken swinging’ may be a protected religious practice in the United States at present, depriving the birds of food and water and forcing them to sit in crates in the streets for days, up to an entire week, is not.
“Notwithstanding, thousands of chickens sat miserably in crates from September 21-September 27  in New York City without proper food, water, or shelter, even though the State of New York charges ‘peace officers’ with enforcing its anti-cruelty laws. In cases of animal cruelty and neglect, the primary peace officer agency handling this duty is the American SPCA,” a role it had from 1866 until 2013.
“ASPCA did not enforce the law”
“However, this year as in years past,” Davis continued, “the ASPCA did not enforce the law when called upon to do so by distressed residents. A humane officer merely paid a token visit that ‘didn’t substantiate anything that was a matter of cruelty.’
“An ASPCA officer told United Poultry Concerns that he saw ‘hoses’ but no water containers in the crates in which the chickens sat in the streets, and that he didn’t know how, or whether, the birds were being fed; he merely saw some feed bags someplace.
“On being pressed for details, the officer told UPC that he had been sent to investigate a type of animal he knew little or nothing about and that the ASPCA could do nothing about water deprivation anyway unless it led to an ‘injury,’ which he defined as ‘the death of the animal.’ This ‘humane’ officer told United Poultry Concerns: ‘Nobody is going to get seriously worked up over an animal that tomorrow is going to be somebody’s dinner.’”
Nothing much changed
Nothing much has changed for Kaporos chickens since then, nor for chickens in the many New York City live poultry markets on every day of the year.
The New York City Police Department, handed the responsibility for cruelty law enforcement after the ASPCA quit doing it, not only does not cite Kaporos chicken sellers for multiple violations of both applicable anti-cruelty laws and city health code, but also provides traffic barriers to the vendors who block busy streets.
But both the annual protests and the annual public practice of Kaporos appear to have escalated in scale, and at least sometimes in intensity.
Watermelon slices & talking points
Some anti-Kaporos protesters each year, including Their Turn blogger Donny Moss this year, arrive at curbside chicken sales sites armed with water and watermelon slices for thirsty chickens, and talking points, hoping to engage the sellers and observers in debate.
This works about as well as trying to debate anyone else at a supermarket meat counter.
This year one vendor repeatedly accused Moss and others of poisoning his chickens. Children helping to sell the chickens amplified the allegation.
Other protesters arrive with bullhorns and just scream. Kaporos practitioners scream back, sometimes hurling dead chickens at activists.
Thirty years of video documentation of New York City protests against Kaporos demonstrate little change in either tactics or accomplishment toward ending it.
The Bearded Vegans
Observers Andy Tabar, owner of the Compassion Co. organic clothing maker, and Paul Steller, a math teacher, have supported anti-Kaporos protest almost from the debut of their Bearded Vegans podcast series.
Episode 32, for instance, aired first on August 31, 2013, centered on an interview with Rina Deych of the Alliance to End Chickens as Kaporos.
But Tabar and Steller “started The Bearded Vegans podcast with a desire to move beyond the basic Vegan 101 and create more nuanced discussions for the seasoned vegan,” their web site explains, including “in depth, honest, unapologetic and often uncomfortable discussions about the ethical grey areas of veganism. Through these conversations,” Tabar and Steller explain, “we aim to figure out how to create a stronger, more effective, and inclusive animal rights movement.”
Tabar on anti-Kaporos protests
Said Tabar on the September 1, 2021 Bearded Vegans podcast, “I’m thinking about the Kaporos protests that happen in New York City [when] the Orthodox Jewish community kills chickens. Every year out in the street there’s a bunch of activists yelling at them. And I have talked to people [who] have been there. And the takeaway that I’ve heard from several people is that they just don’t feel like what is happening is really productive.
“The takeaway,” Tabar continued, “is if you have someone who believes so strongly that this animal exploitation is a part of their religion, their ability to expel their sins, you are not going to get through to that person if you are not a part of that community. There are people in that community who are doing that work. I feel like our position should be to support them and let them do their thing. There are so many other things that we can focus on. I feel like it’s just not a good look if people are going in yelling at people doing this ceremony.”
Pattrice Jones responds
That detonated Pattrice Jones, who introduces herself as an “ecofeminist writer, scholar, and activist who, along with Miriam Jones, cofounded VINE Sanctuary, an LGBTQ-run farmed animal sanctuary” in Springfield, Vermont.
Defending the annual New York City protests, Jones in an “Open letter to The Bearded Vegans” wrote that “In addition to standing up against cruelty and literally saving lives, these activists show the many children in attendance that another way of being in relationship to animals is possible.”
What the decades of videos mostly show, though, are Hassidic children either cowering away from screaming activists, or giving reasonable activists like Donny Moss the finger.
Continued Jones, evidently not checking her allegations against The Bearded Vegans transcript, “This year, just as these steadfast activist are revving up for another round, you took it upon yourselves to publicly opine that their efforts are worthless. So, now, while in the midst of making preparations and bracing themselves for the enormously difficult week to come, these activists have to cope with the emotional impact of having their efforts denigrated by a popular podcast.
“Can you imagine? You can’t. You’re two guys — yes, we get it, beards = MEN — who feel yourself entitled to issue pronouncements on the worth of the work of women. Yes, women.
“How dare you say that our work means nothing? How dare you call yourself vegan while saying that the lives of those chickens mean nothing?”
Reality is that neither Tabar nor Steller said any such thing.
What The Bearded Vegans did point out is that if the goal of anti-Kaporos street protests is to stop Kaporos, those protests are clearly not succeeding, and have if anything reinforced the resistance of the Hassidic community to change.
Comparably, years of mass protests have failed to stop the Omak Suicide Race in Omak, Washington, and failed to stop the Labor Day pigeon shoot held from 1935 until 1999 in Hegins, Pennsylvania.
The Hegins shoot, the last public pigeon shoot held in the U.S., ended after 63 years in 1998, after the Pennsylvania Supreme Court ruled in July 1999 that pigeon shoot promoters and participants could be charged with cruelty.
The Hegins organizers did not attempt to challenge the law, though pigeon shoots continue elsewhere in Pennsylvania at venues not open to the public.