Religious Ritual Killing

Animal-rights groups protest the slaughter of chickens in annual Yom Kippur atonement custom.

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Kapparot is the century-old, perennially controversial ritual of slaughtering a chicken to atone for sins that is performed during Yom Kippur. Traditionally, a chicken is held above the head and swung around three times, to transfer sins to the fowl. It is then slaughtered and given to the poor as food. Many rabbis and Jewish scholars have renounced the practice, stressing that it is merely a custom, absent from the Torah and Talmud scriptures. It has also been called a violation of Jewish law, which prohibits unnecessary harm toward animals. This week, with Yom Kippur right around the corner, animal-rights groups Let the Animals Live and PETA are speaking out about the cruelty of kapparot, urging rabbis to explore cruelty-free alternatives, such as collecting money for charity.