Thousands of chickens gathered in crates died of heat exposure in Borough Park before they were to be sacrificed in the Orthodox ritual known as Kapparot. The New York Daily News is reporting that the chickens were gathered for sacrificial purposes, but the high temperatures this past Wednesday caused 2,000 of them to die before they could be killed.
Kapparot is an Orthodox practice where practitioners transfer their sins to a chicken before sacrificing it. A lot of chickens are needed for the ritual and are often crammed in crates in preparation. The incident that caused the premature death of thousands of birds happened at the Skewre Mosdos shul, located on 45th Street:
“We lost about 2,000 chickens because of the heat,” said a man who works in Skwere Mosdos, a Borough Park shul.
“It’s a big loss,” added the man who declined to give his name. Another person at the 45th St. establishment estimated the death toll at 800.
The hot and muggy day caused a calamity for other Kapparot operations.
“Due to weather condition, a lot of chickens died,” according to an email sent by another yeshiva to its members. “Sorry 4 the inconvenient (sic).”
Chaim Singer, an employee at Machzikai Hadas, located on 43rd Street, insisted that their chickens are always properly cared for, even though they too posted a flier saying they had less birds than usual.
“We make sure they’re comfortable and well fed,” Singer told the Daily News, adding that their chickens are given water and shade.
Shia Porges, who works with Singer, dismissed the issue, chalking up the chickens’ death to a matter of faith.
“No matter what faith you follow, we all believe in God. And that’s why the chickens did not come to any harm because God takes care of everything in His own way,” Porges told the Daily News.
Despite Porges’ insistence that the chickens, who were baked to death before they could be ritualistically slaughtered, were safe in God’s hands, critics of the practice were left aghast:
Critics of the practice have long called it illegal animal cruelty that’s not mandated in the Torah or Talmud. This week, they were crying foul even louder.
“I am horrified, I am upset, but I am not surprised,” said Rina Deych, 57, a member of the Alliance to End Chickens as Kaporos, which advocates the use of coins instead of chickens.
The United Poultry Concerns organization, which is affiliated with Deych’s group, is run by Karen Davis. Davis tried to look on the bright side of the unfortunate chicken loss.
“Their misery is so totally compounded that the best thing to happen to them under the circumstances is to die,” Davis told the Daily News. “They didn’t have to suffer the further pain and indignity” of Kapparot.
It should be noted that all sacrificed chickens are donated to the poor as part of a pre-fast meal.