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On a September day last year, between the Jewish High Holy Days of Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur, a group of worshipers gathered in a parking lot at the Woodland Hills Hebrew Discovery Center for a religious ritual called kapparot.

Behind tarps and makeshift structures used to shield the proceedings from view, live chickens were swung overhead by their feet or wings as a rabbi chanted a prayer. The animals are meant to symbolically absorb the sins of the practitioners, and following the ceremony, the chickens’ throats are slit.

In the Jewish tradition, the slain chickens are meant to be given to the poor to eat, but an animal rights group says that’s not what happened, according to a lawsuit filed this month in Los Angeles Superior Court.

The Animal Protection and Rescue League alleges that Rabbi Netanel Louie killed and discarded the chickens without using them for food, violating an animal rights law that bars maliciously and intentionally mutilating, torturing or wounding animals.

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