An ultra-Orthodox ritual involving the twirling and slaughtering of tens of thousands of chickens can continue on public streets despite the ruffled feathers of animal rights advocates and Brooklyn residents, an appeals court ruled Tuesday.
The 3-2 ruling by the Appellate Division First Department in Manhattan upholds a lower court decision that declined to block the pre-Yom Kippur slaughter, Kaporos, that involves swinging the chickens three times overhead while saying a prayer that asks God to transfer sins to the bird. The chicken’s throat is then slit in accordance with kosher laws.
The Alliance to End Chickens as Kaporos and 19 Brooklynites living near the ritual sued in 2015, seeking to compel the NYPD and city Health Department to enforce animal cruelty and sanitation laws. They said as many as 50,000 chickens suffer for days in packed crates before being sloppily sliced and then discarded in the street, creating an unsafe open-air slaughterhouse. The annual ritual is often accompanied by protests.
Justice Judith Gische wrote for the majority that the plaintiffs were not just seeking to compel authorities to enforce the law, but to compel an outcome they desired.
“The plaintiffs are really challenging the core decision by law enforcement not to arrest or take other legal action,” Gische wrote.
“Although they may be upsetting to nonadherents of such practice, the United State Supreme Court has recognized animal sacrifice as a religious sacrament,” the ruling read.
In a dissent, Justice Ellen Gesmer wrote that authorities couldn’t ignore animal cruelty laws.
“It is not at all clear that the alleged treatment of poultry in the days leading up to Kaporos, or in improper slaughter, is justifiable,” Gesmer wrote.
“(Authorities) have, at a minimum, an obligation to determine whether or not a reported violation has occurred.”
The attorney for the Alliance, Nora Constance Marino, vowed to appeal to the state’s highest court.
“A 3-2 vote on the appellate level is not very common and leaves the door open to proceed further,” she said.
A Law Department spokesman praised the ruling.
“The decision was legally correct. The Court agreed the laws provide government officials with discretion as to their enforcement,” the spokesman said.