Members of the animal rights organization Let the Animals Live (LAL) made their way to Rabbi Ovadia Yosef's home in Jerusalem Monday, in an attempt to convince him to support their efforts to nullify the traditional custom of kaparot, in which chickens are waved over a person's head before being slaughtered. In the ceremony, the person's sins are "transfered" to the chicken.
Animal rights groups have been trying to meet with Rabbi Yosef for several years, but have always been turned down. This morning, they were finally able to deliver him a letter with their request.
According to Etti Altman, chairwoman of LAL, the practice is extremely cruel: "Why should a chicken pay for a person's sins?" she asked.
"Thousands of chickens are cramped together, with no food or water, for days before kaparot… they are abused and then they are slaughtered. People ask for their sins to be forgiven? They should be asking for the chicken's forgiveness."
LAL, explained Altman, intends on asking high-profile figures in the strictly Orthodox communities to call for the nullification of the custom of slaughtering chickens for kaparot and opt for charitable donations instead.
Altman and the two other LAL members who arrived at Rabbi Yosef's house on Monday were declined a meeting, but were able to speak with senior Shas members, such as Trade and Labor Minister Eli Yishai, Minister Meshulam Nahari and MK Shlomo Benizri, who frequent the rabbi's house daily.
The three explained to Altman and her colleagues that it was impossible for Rabbi Yosef to rule against the ancient custom, adding he had no objections to replacing it with monetary donations.
Rabbi Yosef spoke of the custom in his weekly sermon on Saturday night, and expressed his reservations regarding the killing of poultry, saying he was concerned about whether or not the proper protocol was observed in full, by those performing the ritual slaughtering.
According to Rabbi Yosef, Rabbi Yosef Caro himself – considered by many to be the Sephardic Jews highest authority on the Halacha – was "outright against" the kaparot ceremony and the slaughtering of chickens.