Illustration from The Alliance to End Chickens as Kaporos. Image via endchickensaskaporos.com
Illustration from The Alliance to End Chickens as Kaporos. Image via endchickensaskaporos.com

A federal judge in Los Angeles has granted a temporary restraining order preventing Chabad of Irvine from sacrificing chickens in a Yom Kippur ritual.

U.S. District Judge Andre Birotte Jr. granted the TRO sought by United Poultry Concerns. He scheduled a hearing on a preliminary injunction for Thursday morning, even though Yom Kippur ends Wednesday night.

Messages left with an attorney for Chabad of Irvine and its spiritual leader, Rabbi Alter Tenenbaum, were not immediately returned.

The sacrifice of chickens is a ritual for Yom Kippur, which starts Tuesday evening, that is meant to atone for sins.

The lawsuit — which was filed in Los Angeles on Sept. 29 by United Poultry Concerns, a nonprofit organization based in Machipongo, Virginia — alleges illegal business practices in violation of the state’s unfair competition law.

The ritual — known as kaporos — is not exempt from the state’s laws against animal cruelty, the attorneys allege on the suit.

“For more than 20 years, law enforcement agencies in the U.S. have mistakenly believed they cannot enforce basic animal cruelty laws against the religious sacrifice of animals,” said San Diego-based attorney Bryan Pease.

“Nothing could be further from the truth,” he added. “While states and local government are constitutionally prohibited from specifically targeting religion, laws that apply to everybody apply equally to those motivated by religion.

“The California Legislature knows how to create an exception for religion, as it has done for kosher and halal slaughter. However, there is no exception in the California Penal Code for intentionally killing an animal not for food and disposing of that animal, based on religious belief.”

The lawsuit alleges “routinely in the fall of each year, defendants order and receive at their property truckloads of chickens crammed in tiny crates and charge people a fee of approximately $27 to kill and dispose of each chicken.”

The exemptions from state law include killing for food, hunting and medical research, but not ritual sacrifice, the attorneys allege.

“Defendants’ stated purpose in carrying out the killing described herin is to allow people to transfer their sins to the animal, and then kill the animal for their sins,” the lawsuit alleges.

“Engaging in such conduct under the guise of religion does not alter the illegality of the conduct. In fact, taking out vengeance on an innocent animal for one’s own shortcomings is exactly the type of societal evil the legislature sought to prohibit in enacting this provision.”

— City News Service

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