Lawsuit to Stop Kaporos Torture

David Cassuto

I could not be more proud of my former  student and research assistant, Jessica Astrof, for leading the legal battle on this!

The Alliance to End Chickens as Kaporos along with 20 additional plaintiffs filed a lawsuit in the New York Supreme Court New York to issue an injunction against Hasidic rabbis and synagogues in Brooklyn from participating in “Kaporos,” a highly controversial religious custom which involves the confinement, torture and barbaric slaughter of kaporosmore than 50,000 chickens on public streets every year during the week preceding the Jewish holiday Yom Kippur. The case also names the NYPD, NYC Department of Health and the City of New York for failing to enforce city health laws and animal cruelty laws, among others. The Alliance to End Chickens as Kaporos was formed in New York City in 2010 as a project of, and under the umbrella of, United Poultry Concerns, founded by Karen Davis, Ph.D. Kaporos using live chickens is also practiced in other cities throughout the U.S. and Canada, including Los Angeles. See 2014 Brooklyn Kaporos video here:


The 21 plaintiffs are a group of individuals and residents of the subject locations who have endured the inconvenience, nuisance, filth, stench, public health risk and emotional trauma involved in Kaporos for years. Each plaintiff is gravely concerned about the health risks in their community, the contaminants on the streets and sidewalks and the emotional trauma caused by the bloody animal violence they are forced to witness. 


Kaporos is allegedly a ritual of atonement practiced by Hasidic Jews as part of the Jewish holiday of Yom Kippur. The ritual involves practitioners grasping live chickens by their wings and swinging them above the practitioners’ heads. The purpose of this act, followed by the slaughter, is allegedly to transfer the practitioners’ sins and punishment to the birds, allegedly absolving the participants of their sins. In order to conduct the slaughter of the birds, Kaporos involves the erection of make-shift slaughterhouses on the public streets and sidewalks of the City of New York.  Dead chickens, half dead chickens, chicken blood, chicken feathers, chicken urine, chicken feces, other toxins and garbage such as used latex gloves and filthy tarps consume the public streets.  There is no oversight and no remedy for cleanup.  Plaintiffs maintain that operating such illegal public slaughterhouses causes and creates a public nuisance, a public health risk, a public health hazard and a dangerous condition.   Continue reading

Keep Calm & Eat Less Meat


Carrie Scrufari

Every few years or so, a Dietary Guidelines Advisory Committee (the Committee) reviews current scientific evidence related to diet, nutrition, and health.  The Committee then reports its findings to the Secretaries of the United States Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) and the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA).  This year, the 2015 Committee submitted its findings in the Scientific Report of the keep-calm-and-eat-less-meat-22015 Dietary Guidelines Advisory Committee (see Report).


The goal of the Report is to inform the Federal government with pertinent scientific information to serve as the basis for developing a national nutrition policy.  The Federal government reviews the Report and takes it under advisement as it develops new dietary guidelines for Americans.  Members of the public were invited to submit comments on the Report for 75-days, until May 8, 2015.  After reviewing the comments, HHS and USDA will release the new 2015 Dietary Guidelines later this year.


The Committee’s Report was revolutionary this year in two key respects.  First, the Report recommended – for the first time in history – that Americans consume more plants and less meat (see Report, Part B, Ch. 2, lines 43-48).  To date, the dietary recommendations have always been Continue reading

The Community Impact of CAFOs

Stop the Wysocki Factory-CAFO Farm

Seth Victor

Saratoga, WI is a small town in central Wisconsin. Set on the banks of the Wisconsin River, this community of a few thousand people is likely not a major destination for tourists roaming through the state, but by all appearances it seems a typical mid-western settlement from the 19th century that evolved into a small town befitting a Prairie Home Companion yarn. It is also the setting of an ongoing fight between the community and a proposed CAFO, one that has drawn intense public ire. Continue reading

50 Millions Deaths is an Acceptable Cost of Business

Seth Victor

I’ll keep this short and sweet, because we’ve made this point on the blawg several dozen times. NPR reports that the recent outbreak of H5N2, or Avian Flu, has caused economic hardship for American farmers, to the point that the USDA is importing eggs from the Netherlands to meet demand.

Although it is mentioned in the lead paragraph, the fact that nearly 50 million chickens and turkey have been slaughtered to stem the virus is played off like any other economic number. As you read the article, look at the wording: these animals have been “destroyed,” not “killed” or “slaughtered.” The rest of the article is about the business model and bottomline consequences. It might as well be about how many iPhones had to be recalled for defective touch screens. These aren’t living things, remember; they’re just animals, cogs in the machine. Nowhere in the article is any suggestion that this outbreak could be avoided by not housing birds in CAFOs in the first place, save for one link that claims humans might be spreading the virus by entering CAFOs. Instead, the US government has taken the position that this virus is the fault of wild birds. Any guesses as to which lobbying group might have had a hand in that statement?

We. Can. Stop. This. H5N2 is not some mystery beyond comprehension. It is a result of the way we raise farmed birds. Stop purchasing eggs and meat from CAFOs, and they cannot exist without your dollars. It really is that simple.

Ringling Bros. Retires Circus Elephants

Seth Victor

As many of you may have already heard, Ringling Bros. is retiring elephants from its act and focusing on caring for elephants in a conservation center. Wayne Pacelles of HSUS described this move as a “Berlin Wall moment for animal protection,” and attributed the change to the evolving public opinion surrounding animal welfare, including the outcry that came on the heels of Blackfish and the treatment of orcas at Sea World. The termination of elephant performances has been long-sought by PETA.Photography-Elephant-Wallpapers

The media reaction, perhaps unsurprisingly, is a bit divided regarding Ringling Bros’s decision. An op-ed in the New York Post believes that the circus’s “craven capitulation to PETA will only embolden zealots to agitate for elimination of all circus animals — if not eventually to bestow upon all living creatures the same “inalienable rights” as humans,” and goes on to state that without exposure to animals via a circus, most people will not form a connection with the animals, and will thus not care to save them in the wild. The L.A. Times also notes that many people feel the elephants are an iconic part of the joy of the circus. Meanwhile op-eds in the New York Times range from echoing the Post to refuting the sentiments of the circus sympathizers. Continue reading

District Court Upholds the Right to Sell Foie Gras

gaggle-of-geeseSeth Victor

The blawg previously commented on the ongoing issues surrounding California’s ban on the sale of foie gras, particularly the idea of giving away foie gras as a “complimentary side” when selling some other food. Last week Animal Legal Defense Fund filed another suit in the battle, arguing that La Toque restaurant was illegally selling foie gras in violation of California’s Health and Safety Code § 25982.

The suit, however, is somewhat of a moot point. On January 7th the California District Court overturned the Health and Safety Code banning the sale of foie gras, granting partial summary judgment to the plaintiffs, among whom is Hot’s Restaurant Group, the aforementioned makers of the complimentary foie gras side. The District Court summarize the issue as “whether a sales ban on products containing a constituent that was produced in a particular manner is an “ingredient requirement” under Poultry Products Inspection Act (PPIA).” The plaintiffs argued that the PPIA preempts the Health and Safety Code. Judge Stephen V. Wilson agreed, and has enjoined the California Attorney General from enforcing the law. In summary, PPIA is a federal law that regulates the sale and distribution of birds and expressly prohibits states from imposing certain conditions on food and ingredients. Judge Wilson held that the Health and Safety Code, which is a state law, was in conflict with the federal law, and that the federal law must be held above state regulations. The “production” of including fatty liver in the sales of food is, apparently, an ingredient, and therefore must be regulated, with regards to foie gras, at the federal level.

Health and Safety Code § 25981, which bans the practice of force feeding a bird for the purpose of fattening the liver, was not before the District Court, and remains in effect. Also, there are several other facets of the plaintiff’s argument that were not granted summary judgment, including a Commerce Clause attack. The Commerce Clause argument and the remaining section banning “production” still presents an important argument, although the restaurants’ main challenge has now been overcome; Californian restaurants largely import all of their foie gras, thus the production bar will have a much smaller impact.

Progress at the Cost of Our Humanity

Seth Victor

The New York Times this week published an investigation into U.S. Meat Animal Research Center, and, perhaps predictably, the results are disturbing. I heartily suggest reading the whole article, but for those in a rush, here are some of the interesting takeaway points:

  • U.S. Meat Animal Research Center is pioneering ways to produce meat more efficiently and cheaply via re-engineering farmed animals through surgery and breeding techniques
  • In pursuing this research, animal welfare has taken a backseat. For example, since 1985, 6,500 out of the 580,000 animals the center has housed have starved. 625 have died from mastitis, an easily treatable infection.
  • Nearly 10 million piglets have been crushed by their mothers each year, not because this is what mothers naturally do, but because they are being forced to have larger litters of weak piglets, and the mothers themselves are artificially larger, kept alive longer to reproduce.
  • For thirty-one years, the Center worked on genetically modifying cows to regularly produce twins, noting that single births were not an efficient way to produce meat. By injecting cows with embryos from other cows that birthed twins, and then injecting them with semen from bulls who sired twins, the Center produced cows that have a 55% chance of having twins, when naturally the chances are 3%. Many of the female calves of twins are born with deformed vaginas, and the artificially large wombs create birthing problems even for single calves. Over 16% of the twins died.
  • Thirty to forty cows die each year from exposure to bad weather, not including storms, in which several hundred more die.
  • 245 animals have died since 1985 due to treatable abscesses.
  • In 1990, the Center tried to create larger lambs by injecting pregnant ewes with an excessive amount of male hormone testosterone. Instead, the lambs were born with deformed genitals, which made urination difficult.
  • In 1989, the Center locked a young cow in place in a pen with six bulls for over an hour to determine the bulls’ libidos. The industry standard is to do this with one bull for fifteen minutes. By the time a vet was called, the cows hind legs were broken from being mounted, and she died within a few hours.
  • The scientists charged with administering the experiments, surgeries, and to euthanize do not have medical degrees. One retired scientist at the Center was quoted saying, “A vet has no business coming in and telling you how to do it. Surgery is an art you get through practice.”
  • “The leaner pigs that the center helped develop, for example, are so low in fat that one in five females cannot reproduce; center scientists have been operating on pigs’ ovaries and brains in an attempt to make the sows more fertile.”
  • Regarding oversight, “A Times examination of 850 experimental protocols since 1985 showed that the approvals [for experiments] were typically made by six or fewer staff members, often including the lead researchers for the experiment. The few questions asked dealt mostly with housekeeping matters like scheduling and the availability of animals.”
  • “The language in the protocols is revealing. While the words “profit” or “production efficiency” appear 111 times, “pain” comes up only twice.”

Continue reading


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