Lawsuit accuses Irvine, LA police of ignoring animal-cruelty laws in connection to Jewish ritual – Orange County Register

SANTA ANA – An animal-rights group in a lawsuit filed this week accuses the Irvine Police Department of refusing to enforce animal-cruelty laws to stop the slaughter of chickens during a Jewish holiday ritual.

The lawsuit, filed Tuesday at the federal courthouse in Santa Ana by the San Diego-based Animal Protection and Rescue League, marks the latest effort by animal-rights activists to target the Chabad of Irvine’s annual Kapparot ceremonies.

The lawsuit alleges that the Irvine Police Department, as well as the Los Angeles Police Department, protect the “illegal killing of animals” by not cracking down on the Kapparot ceremonies.

The ceremony, practiced in some traditional Orthodox Jewish communities, includes a chicken swung over someone’s head to symbolize that person’s sins being transferred into the bird. The chicken is then slaughtered.

Leaders at the Irvine synagogue say that their treatment of the chickens is “humane and kosher.” A rabbi has testified that the chickens are given back to the supplier.

Pease said a variety of Jewish groups also take part in Kapparot ceremonies in the Los Angeles area, although the names of those organizations are not specified in the lawsuit.

A Los Angeles PD representative said the agency hasn’t seen the lawsuit and doesn’t comment on pending suits. Irvine PD did not immediately respond to a request for comment

The previous lawsuits named the Chabad of Irvine as a defendant, alleging that because the members of the synagogue pay the Chabad leaders for the chickens, their slaughter and disposal constituted a “business act” that break the state’s unfair competition law.

That argument failed to gain traction with either U.S. District Judge Andre Birotte Jr. or Orange County Superior Court Judge Martha K. Gooding – both dismissed the respective federal and state court lawsuits.

Both judges found that the Kapparot ceremony is a religious ritual, not a business act.

After Judge Gooding’s ruling, attorneys for the First Liberty Institute, which represented the Chabad of Irvine, accused the animal rights group of taking part in a “targeted attack on a religious sect.”

In the wake of those legal setbacks, attorney Bryan Pease, who has filed the various lawsuits on behalf of the Animal Protection and Rescue League, said the decision was made to file the new complaint against the Police Department, arguing that it is illegal to kill and discard animals for a religious ritual without using them for food.

“The animal-cruelty laws can only be directly enforced by law enforcement,” Pease said. “The cities just don’t want to touch this because religions are involved.”

The suit seeks a judge’s opinion and attorney’s fees. Further, as part of the suit, the organization is asking permission to “place individuals who kill and discard chickens under private persons arrest” if the group’s backers “witness such individuals violating the law.”

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