(JTA) — An animal rights group is appealing the dismissal of a federal lawsuit against a Southern California synagogue for holding a pre-Yom Kippur ritual in which a chicken is swung by its legs and then slaughtered.
Los Angeles District Court Judge Andre Birotte Jr. earlier this month ruled in favor of a request by Chabad of Irvine to dismiss the lawsuit filed against it in late September by animal rights activists.
The suit on behalf of the Virginia-based United Poultry Concerns claimed that the practice violates the state’s unfair competition law. But Birotte wrote in his decision that the kapparot ceremony is a religious ritual supported by donations, not a “business act” covered by the unfair competition law.
Bryan Pease, the attorney for United Poultry Concerns, said that while the judge determined that the practice failed to meet the criteria of an unfair business act, he did not address the legality of slaughtering chickens without the intention of eating or donating them, the Los Angeles Jewish Journal reported.
The case will now go to the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 9th Circuit.
Chabad typically accepts donations of $18 from those who participate in the kapparot ritual, according to the Jewish Journal. The group reportedly had not donated the chickens to the poor, as is customary, instead hiring someone to dispose of the carcasses.
A 2015 lawsuit filed in Orange County Superior Court that called for an end to the practice based on animal cruelty is still pending. The suit, which was filed on behalf of the San Diego-based Animal Protection and Rescue League, alleges that the chickens are crammed tightly into cages and mishandled, and are disposed of and not used for food.
Kapparot is an ancient practice performed annually by some Jews between Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur. By performing kapparot, a person’s sins are said to be symbolically transferred to the chicken as part of the process of atonement ahead of Yom Kippur, the Day of Atonement. The meat of the chicken is then donated to charity. Some people perform the ritual using money in place of a chicken.