The state’s top court Wednesday dismissed a lawsuit seeking to have the NYPD and city Health Department crack down on the Jews’ practice of slaughtering chickens in advance of Yom Kippur.
The Court of Appeals unanimously upheld lower court rulings dismissing the lawsuit, which claims the Kaporos ritual of killing chickens on public streets that is performed in Brooklyn neighborhoods such as Crown Heights, Borough Park and Williamsburg prior to Yom Kippur violates various animal abuse and public health laws.
The lawsuit was brought in 2015 by a group called The Alliance To End Chickens as Kaporos.
The organization was seeking a court order compelling the NYPD and city Health Department to enforce the laws.
Kaporos is an atonement ceremony in which a chicken is waved over a person’s head three times before being slaughtered. While critics call it animal cruelty, supporters say the sacrifice is a ritual protected by religious freedom laws.
In upholding the lower court rulings to dismiss the case, the Court of Appeals said an order to compel the NYPD and the Health Department to act is “available only in limited circumstances.”
While an order to compel “is an appropriate remedy to enforce the performance of a ministerial duty, it is well settled that it will not be awarded to compel an act in respect to which (a public) officer may exercise judgment or discretion,” the ruling says.
Enforcement of the laws cited by the alliance “would involve some exercise of discretion,” the court ruled.
Nora Constance Marie, the lawyer for The Alliance To End Chickens As Kaporos, said her clients were frustrated by the court’s decision
“It’s disturbing that the city continues to turn a blind eye to 15 laws being violated,” she said. “We are disappointed that the court did not exercise their judicial power to right this wrong, and we continue to explore other legal remedies.”
The alliance on its website said it does not oppose Kaporos “per se, only the cruel and unnecessary use of chickens in the ceremony.”
The Animal Legal Defense Fund filed a brief in support of the alliance.
Agudath Israel of America filed a brief calling for the lawsuit to be dismissed.