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Ritual Chicken Slaughter Draws Fire

BROOKLYN (CN) - A Yom Kippur atonement ceremony involving the sacrifice of live chickens has drawn a lawsuit from animal rights activists in Brooklyn.

Crown Heights resident Rina Deych filed the action Tuesday in Kings County Court as a member of the Alliance to End Chickens as Kaporos.

The 33-page complaint defines as "an event that involves the torture and slaughter of chickens on public streets and sidewalks."

"It is veiled under the guise of a 'religious activity' of the Jewish faith, but this definition is questional at best," the complaint continues. "In fact, many observers of the Jewish faith have denounced this practice as barbaric and primitive, and label it as nothing more than a pure act of animal torture and abuse."

The practice a person waving a live chicken - or sometimes a sack of coins - over his head leading up to Yom Kippur, a day of atonement and the most holy day for the Jewish faithful.

Yom Kippur begins on Friday this year, so the complaint notes that the Kaporos events will occur between Sept. 29 and the morning of Oc. 3.

Deych identified two addresses in Crown Heights as "the most prominent sites where Kaporos takes place each year," and she said there is a third location in Boro Park.

Elizabeth Knauer, a co-plaintiff, said she lives near one of these locations and has been "horrified" by the Kaporos ceremonies she has witnessed in her neighborhood.

The practice is a "public nuisance, poses a health hazard, and involves dangerous and illegal activity," according to the complaint.

Kaporos events cause "litter, blood, garbage, dirt, feces, urine, feathers and other unsafe, unsanitary and hazardous debris to be strewn on public areas," the complaint states.

"Moreover, illegal makeshift slaughterhouses are erected and utilized on open public property under temporary tents," it continues.

Deych and Knauer said video footage from September 2013 shows chickens in crates struggling, many injured with "bloody wounds or already dead; there was feces, blood, urine and feathers outside the crates leaching into the street."

When one man in the area asked if the birds were being fed, another "shrugged and said, 'yes we give them bread,'" the complaint states.

Dreych claimed that she nevertheless did not see the birds being fed over the next three days. She said she called the police, but they didn't respond.

Additional video footage at a different yeshiva shows the chickens in creates, some of which fell off a truck and were running around, appearing "noticeably sicker" and many dead, according to the complaint.

Deych said she also witnessed thousands of chickens in creates in an alley in Boro Park, and that the "smell was awful."

When a man tried to take six chickens that fell from the crates to a sanctuary, police allegedly arrested him.

"There is clearly a health threat by the reckless disregard of the existence of blood, feces, urine, feathers and other animal bodily fluids and parts, including dead carcasses," according to the lawsuit.

"The public's safety is at risk in that the behavior of the participants of the event have threatened violence on non-participants and non-supporters by shouting at them, threatening them, and throwing objects at them," the complaint continues. "The public's morals are interfered with as this event involves gross, substantial and immoral animal abuse, torture and cruelty on public streets and sidewalks."

Deych said police have told her that Kaporos is a "religious event," and that officers "won't touch it."

She and Knauer want an immediate injunction, naming the New York City Police Department and four rabbis as defendants. They are represented by Nora Constance Marino, of Great Neck, N.Y.

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