Letters: The chickens or the religious rite?
Re “Animal rites protest,” Sept. 12
Regarding the use of live chickens in the sacrificial Orthodox Jewish ritual of kaparot, I have to ask: What would Sholem Aleichem say?
In the late 19th century, this great Yiddish humorist wrote a story in which he imagined the ritual coming to an end when a flock of “shtetl” chickens go on strike.
This deceptively light story can be interpreted in many different ways: as a commentary on scapegoating, anti-Semitism, superstition or animal cruelty, or as a plug for political uprising or union organizing.
After publication of my children’s book in 2003 — a retelling of his apparently still-relevant story — United Poultry Concern contacted me for copies to support its work to end the use of chickens in this practice.
Imagine Sholem Aleichem returning to life to find this still going on in 21st century America.
Your article made me wonder about the millions of pounds of poultry making their way to our tables every day. Aren’t those chickens slaughtered too?
A lot has been made about the inhumane way poultry is raised and slaughtered in giant industrial plants in this country. It seems that the relatively few chickens slaughtered in Orthodox neighborhoods “from Pico-Robertson to Brooklyn” end up on the tables of the poor, and die a much nobler death than those ending up on your table or mine.
I applaud and support Faith Action for Animals, which organized a recent protest against killing chickens in kaparot.
As a practicing Jew, it is important to me that our human role as caretakers of the Earth and its creatures is put into a spiritual context, and that our religious rites are practiced in accordance with our spiritual values.
The way these sacrificial hens are treated is in no way holy, and I cannot believe that this is the religious practice that God wants of us.
A cure for the common opinion
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