By: Ankita Kulkarni
September 8 2022
Thousands of cows have died due to Lumpy Skin Disease in Gujarat and neighboring Indian states.
A video shared via Twitter on September 4, 2022, claims that thousands of cattle started dying in the state of Gujarat due to the vaccine given by the Indian government. The video is shared by conspiracy theorist Rodney Howard-Browne; the video shows thousands of cow carcasses piled up in a dumping yard. The user has captioned the post, "This is the Gujarat state in India, where tens of thousands of cattle suddenly started to die after being given a vaccine by the Indian government." It further claims that "Worldwide, they are destroying cattle.” It has 77,000 views and has been retweeted more than 1000 times.
The Twitter video and several such claims surrounding the death of livestock are being shared in the backdrop of false assertions like planned food shortages, deliberately poisoning livestock, and Dutch farmers protesting against their country's new farm laws to reduce 30 percent of the livestock. However, the claims are baseless and shared with incorrect context.
We searched for the recent stories around the death of cattle in Gujarat and came across reports pointing out that tens and thousands of cows have indeed died in the city of Bhuj, Gujarat, and its neighboring states in India. However, the cause of these mass cattle deaths is the Lumpy Skin Disease (LSD), an infectious viral disease of cattle that broke out in the region. The same viral video was posted by Aaj Tak journalist Kaushik Kantecha on July 30, 2022, stating that carcasses of cows that died due to LSD were left open in a dumping yard.
A YouTube video report by the Indian Express published on August 12, 2022, noted that the first case of LSD was reported on April 23, 2022, at the Kaiyari village of Kutch district. Since then, nearly an estimated 3,000 cows have lost their lives in Rajasthan and Gujarat combined. The infection has spread to 23 districts of Gujarat. The center has also introduced the indigenous vaccine against LSD to curb the further spread of the disease.
Times of India(TOI) report on July 31, 2022, explained the situation in Gujarat that saw dead cows piling up in the city dumping yards. It states that videos of dead cows lying in the open spaces have surfaced on social media platforms as the city officials found it difficult to dispose them. According to the officials, it adds figures that "a total of 37,000 animals got infected with LSD in Kutch and 1,010 died. The government has vaccinated 1.65 lakh animals." The state government has also prohibited the exchange of trade animals and put 14 districts under the controlled area.
According to the study published on the National Library of Medicine (NCBI) website on "Review: Vaccines and Vaccination against Lumpy Skin Disease," noted that currently, there is no DIVA (differentiating infected from vaccinated animals) vaccines with associated marker tests commercially available for LSDV. However, another recent report by Indian Express on August 31, 2022, said that The Indian Council of Agricultural Research (ICAR) had indigenously developed the Lumpi-ProVacInd vaccine against the LSD virus that is affecting cows within four to five months. It also quoted Deputy Director-General (Animal Sciences) of ICAR, Bhupendra Nath Tripathi, stating," Currently, we are only administering goat pox and sheep pox virus vaccines. These are heterologous vaccines offering only cross-protection (up to 60-70 per cent) for cattle against LSD, by virtue of all the three viruses belonging to the same capripoxvirus genus."
None of the reports or narratives linked the death of cows to the rollout of the LSD vaccine in Gujarat state. The Twitter account of the District Development Officer of Kutch, on July 31, 2022, posted images of disposing of cows, noting," All cattle ( lumpy and normal death ) have been properly disposed as per the procedures.
Several such false claims are spread around the livestock deaths that are a part of conspiracy theories relating to the planned food shortages. One such claim stated that Bills Gates is responsible for the death of around 3,000 cows in southwest Kansas. Whereas in reality, according to an NPR report, days of intense heat waves that sent temperatures higher than 100 degrees Fahrenheit caused the death of cows as they find it difficult to stay cool under such circumstances. The same has been debunked by Logically. Some misinformation even linked it to the Dutch farmers' protests claiming that cows were being killed off in the name of climate change.
Conspiracy theorist Rodney Howard-Browne has made unwarranted claims about food shortages and has been vocal in downplaying the seriousness of the COVID-19 pandemic.
It is evident that several cows died in Gujarat due to the LSD virus but not from its vaccination. Hence, we have marked this claim as misleading.