NEW YORK (CBSNewYork/AP) — Protestors are rallying against what they call the cruel treatment of chickens that happens in a ritual ahead of the Jewish holiday of Yom Kippur.

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The tradition dates back at least 800 years and calls for believers to wave a live chicken three times over their heads ahead of the arrival of Yom Kippur, Judaism’s holiest day, which begins at sundown Friday. After slaughter, religious Jews often donate the meat to charity.

Jewish leaders across Israel and the United States have called for an end to the practice for years, but leaders of insular ultra-Orthodox communities have been resistant.

The controversy surrounding the practice stretches back centuries.

Karen Davis, the president of United Poultry Concerns which advocates the humane treatment of chickens, turkeys, ducks and other domestic fowl, is against the custom.

“Rituals practiced by Hasidic Jewish communities where they swing the birds over their head and then slitting their throats, often putting them in garbage cans, putting them in dumpsters,” said Davis.

That’s also why the Alliance to End Chickens as Kaporos have held a series of protests against the use of chickens during the ritual.

The protests were held earlier this week in Midwood, Williamsburg and Crown Heights.

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Watch a video of one of the demonstrations below:

There are many Jewish communities however, that don’t use chickens for Kaporos. Instead, they swing a bag of coins to represent the chicken while saying prayers, something the Alliance to End Chickens as Kaporos endorses.

“There is a perfectly acceptable Kaporos practice that not only avoids animal cruelty, but can help reduce hunger and show compassion to all,” the Alliance said in a statement. “The chickens need mercy from us. We ask Kaporos observers to show mercy and use money instead of chickens.”

Menachem Friedman, an expert on Jewish religious society in Israel, said replacing chickens with donations to charity is a rising trend around the world.

“There is also a very accepted custom in synagogues, that in the afternoon, people bring their money for Kaparot, and everyone chooses the charity he wants to support,” he said.

For more information about the Alliance to End Chickens as Kaporos, click here.

To find out more about the United Poultry Concerns, click here.

Should the practice of using chickens as Kaporos be banned? Sound off below in our comments section…

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