In Israel, the lobby for animal welfare is strong, and growing. It’s an issue that brings together left and right, secular and religious… up to a point.
Behind the scenes in the Knesset’s Constitution, Law and Justice Committee in recent days, there have been desperate attempts to add a clause to new animal welfare legislation in order to safeguard the right of Israelis to symbolically transfer their sins to a chicken and then have it slaughtered.
Orthodox lawmakers are keen to ensure that they don’t find themselves to have approved laws that are used to stop the annual atonement ceremony of kapparpot which is performed on Yom Kippur eve. Kapparot schloggers, as those who perform of this ritual are called, declare that the bird will carry their sins, pass it over their head (carefully, as an injured bird would render its meat non-kosher) and then take it to a shochet for slaughter.
Animal rights groups such as Tnu Lachayot Lichyot pushed hard for kapparot to be outlawed by the legislation, but committee chairman David Rotem gave instructions to list in the minutes that “the legislature approves the regulations, clearly acknowledging that they do not apply to the kapparot custom.”
This isn’t the first time that the parameters of animal welfare legislation have been determined by religious practice. Last year, lawmaker Ronit Tirosh, who is trying to ban fur in Israel, said she will tolerate rabbit and fox fur, because it is used to make the streimel hats worn by Hasidic men.