A bag containing two decapitated chicken carcasses was found in a Northeast Philadelphia cemetery Sunday afternoon.
The discovery was made on the 600 block of Disston Street in Lawndale. Police said they called in SPCA officers, who concluded that the remains did not seem suspicious and were likely part of a ritual animal sacrifice.
“We did go out there to see if we could find any information that would lead us to who put them there,” Wendy Marano of the Pennsylvania SPCA said. “They could be charged with illegal dumping, but it’s not illegal to humanely sacrifice an animal as part of a religious ritual.”
She said that the law, which allows for animals to be sacrificed during the practice of religion provided they are killed swiftly, has been on the books since a 1992 court ruling. “We actually get quite a few animal mutilations, this isn’t the first. We’ve had several already this year,” Marano said, going so far as to call the occurrence “common.”
A man walking his dog a month ago in Pennypack Park stumbled on boxes and bags containing a headless goat, chicken and rooster parts. Police executing a drug-related search warrant in a Chester County home last Monday found a trove of what appeared to be canine skulls and vertebrae — some of them gilded — and chicken parts strung up from a backyard tree.
Animal sacrifice is a part of many forms of Voodoo, some occult religions, and Santeria, which hails from the Caribbean, Marano said.
“We do get a lot of calls from people who stumble across these things and it certainly is very disturbing to people who are not practitioners of that religion — it’s disturbing to us as the Pennsylvania SPCA,” she said. “But we ... have to carry out the law as it is written regardless of our personal feelings.”
Inside the occult
Here’s some insight from some local Voodoo experts and practitioners about some practices that do occasionally include animal sacrifices:
A woman at a local occult shop said that animal sacrifice is not performed in African-based religions such as Santeria and Voodoo because, historically, the blood spilled would have attracted predatory animals in the religions’ home countries.
A woman at a respected Haitian Voodoo temple that also certifies priests and priestesses in Santeria and other African-based religions confirmed on the phone that ritual animal sacrifice is, in fact, a part of those religions.
She said that the sacrifices require training and have policies and procedures for each step, including humane killing and ethical disposal of remains, so they are not likely to be found in a public place.