From The Jersey Journal

PASSAIC (AP) – Making good on a vow to perform an animal sacrifice, a Santeria priest killed two red roosters last night at an altar behind his religious supply store on the city’s main street.

“This is a great moment for me,” said Felix Mota, after performing the two-hour ritual at Botanica St. Barbara on Main Avenue. “For the first time, I feel I can openly practice my religion without interference.”

Mota, 43, a santero, or priest of the Afro-Cuban religion, vowed last Wednesday to perform the sacrifice and advised city officials of his plans.

Mota’s lawyer, Jesus Pena, said the ritual was protected by a 1993 Supreme Court decision, Lukumi Babaluaye v. the City of Hialeah, Fla., in which the court ruled the sacrifice was a form of religious expression shielded by the First Amendment.

Last week, Mayor Sammy Rivera said that his administration has never interfered with an animal sacrifice if it involved a religious ritual. Police were posted outside the botanica last night for crowd control.

During a press briefing before the ceremony, Mota told reporters, most of them from Spanish speaking news media, that the ritual was not an act of cruelty but an homage to God.

“It’s very important for us to sacrifice animals because it’s part of our ritual and how we make our God happy,” Mota said.

The ceremony began with singing, chanting and drums and other percussion performed by a dozen participants dressed in white and red, evolving into a frenzied dance.

At one point, a white dove was produced from a back room and given to Mota, who held it aloft and recited a prayer in Spanish. He took the bird outside to a sidewalk where he freed it as a crowd of several dozen people, held back by police barricade, looked on.

Afterward, two red roosters were brought in to the altar.

Mota and other participants knelt on the floor and held the first bird firmly, as Mota appeared to bless the bird with wine poured into cups made from goat hooves. He then poured some wine into a porcelain dish.

The bird’s neck was then held over the dish as Mota unsheathed a dagger, raised it and, as drums and chanting continued, brought the blade down into the back of the bird’s neck.

Though he was unable to sever the rooster’s head, he held the blade down until the bird was dead. The bird’s carcass was then placed in a red silk scarf and tied in a bundle.

He repeated the ritual on the second bird, this time severing the head cleanly, allowing blood to pour from its neck. Mota drank some of the blood mixed with wine.

Lisa Lange, spokeswoman for Norfolk, Va.-based People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals, said that the organization opposes the killing of animals, whether for religious reasons or for food.
“Our feeling is this, that local authorities should prosecute based on cruelty statutes. Abuse is abuse, whether or not you’re doing it because you say God told you to,” Lange said.

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