Days of chickens

Dustbath, Farm Sanctuary. Copyright Lauren Krohn Photography

Dustbath, Farm Sanctuary. Copyright Lauren Krohn Photography

For the last week, I’ve been following the stories of the 3000 rescued “spent” layer hens through every conceivable media outlet. It’s my daily dose of giddiness- every time I see a new photograph of the chickens exploring at Farm Sanctuary, finally stepping on green grass, I smile so much that my face hurts.

While the rescue is an enormous inspiration, the upcoming Kaporos rituals deliver an equal measure of misery. I only learned of the Kaporos ritual five years ago, just after I went vegan. Performed by certain orthodox Jewish sects, Kaporos involves swinging a live chicken over one’s head- ritualistically transferring the sins to the animal. They are then butchered, often with dull knives.

Every Yom Kippur I’m overwhelmed with grief for the chickens, but regardless of how abhorrent I think the practice might be, I’ve simply been too afraid to stand up and protest in person. When I received the Meetup invitation for the demonstrations last week, I allowed myself to consider it sincerely. What would happen if everyone were afraid when it came to the animals? There would be no undercover MFA investigations and nobody would see inside factory farms. What if photographers like Jo-Anne McArthur were paralyzed by fear- we wouldn’t have the images that move us to action.

We need witnesses. I’ve let people do the dirty work for me for a long time, simply because I’m afraid to be a witness. I think about everyone else’s bravery, then relish in the rescues. But I’ve finally realized that I won’t feel right sitting around eating (vegan) bonbons while chickens are swinging over heads nearby in Borough Park.

I was also really scared to go vegan. Scared! Afraid that I would miss the foods that I liked- because they were the foods that I knew. And what happened? My life became about hundred times better- I simply didn’t know what was waiting for me when I conquered my fears.

I’m not saying that attending the Kaporos demonstrations will be enjoyable. But I do think that we have a tendency to build things up in our minds simply because they’re unknown, then miss the good we can derive from those experiences. So here’s where it ends, here’s where once again I live up to the words “animal advocate.” I’ll be thinking of my brave humane heroes, like Jo-Anne, Colleen Patrick-Goudreau, Susie Coston at Farm Sanctuary, and so many more incredibly active activists. I’ll adopt an open stance, as Colleen does, and do something.

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