Video of dead cow filmed in India's Kerala state, not Karnataka

A video taken in India's southern Kerala state showing a dead cow tied to a vehicle has been repeatedly shared in online posts that falsely claimed it was taken in neighbouring Karnataka. The posts also alleged Muslims slaughtered the animal -- viewed as sacred by the country's Hindu majority -- and paraded its carcass. Local police told AFP that a wild animal killed the cow before its dead body was displayed by protesters demanding government action on deadly animal attacks in Kerala's forested Wayanad district.

"Open cow slaughter by Muslim community in Karnataka," read a Hindi-language post on social media platform X on May 14, 2024.

It featured a video composed of two clips; one of a dead cow on the hood of a truck, followed by scenes of a large crowd of protesters.

"Jai Shri Ram, share this as much as possible," read the text overlaid to the video using a commonly used Hindu proclamation of faith.

"In Karnataka, people of the Muslim community are openly slaughtering cows on the streets," it added.

Cows are considered sacred by India's Hindu majority population and their slaughter is illegal in many states.

<span>Screenshot of the false post taken on May 17, 2024</span>
Screenshot of the false post taken on May 17, 2024

The video was also shared alongside similar claims elsewhere on X and on Facebook.

However, it was filmed in a town in Kerala state and not in Karnataka as the posts claimed.

While there is a significant Muslim minority in Karnataka -- around 12.9 percent of the population -- the proportion of Muslims in Kerala is much larger, making up about 26.5 percent of the population (archived links here and here).

Animal attacks

Reverse image searches using the video's keyframes, followed by keyword searches on Google, found it posted on Instagram on February 17, 2024 by a page called Wayanad View (archived link).

"When the people took the law in their hands in Pulpally," its caption read, referring to a town in Kerala's Wayanad district.

Below is a screenshot comparison of the video in the false posts (left) and the one on Instagram (right):

<span>Screenshot comparison of the video in the false post (left) and the original Instagram post (right)</span>
Screenshot comparison of the video in the false post (left) and the original Instagram post (right)

The location of the video corresponds to Google Maps imagery of a road in Pulpally.

Below is a screenshot comparison of the video in the false posts (left) and a Google Street View of the area where it was filmed (right) with the corresponding buildings highlighted by AFP:

<span>Screenshot comparison of the video shared in false posts (left) and the Google Street View of the same avenue with similarities highlighted by AFP</span>
Screenshot comparison of the video shared in false posts (left) and the Google Street View of the same avenue with similarities highlighted by AFP

The second half of the footage corresponds with the same location in Pulpally, filmed from the opposite direction (archived link).

Below is a screenshot comparison of the second part of the video in the false posts (left) and Google Street View of the area (right), with similarities highlighted by AFP:

<span>Screenshot comparison of the second part of the false post video (left) and Google Maps (right)</span>
Screenshot comparison of the second part of the false post video (left) and Google Maps (right)

The owner of the Instagram page told AFP: "It is not a case of cow slaughter. Three months ago, a tiger had killed a human, and shortly afterwards, another animal killed a cow.

"In protest against these incidents, the local people went on strike against the administration. In their anger, they tied the dead body of the cow to a forest department vehicle. This video captures that protest."

Local police similarly said the video had been misrepresented.

"This video is of a demonstration by local people in Pulappally, Wayanad, in February, protesting against the local administration for not preventing continuous attacks by wild animals," police inspector Subhash told AFP on May 16, 2024.

"During the protest, some angry demonstrators had tied the dead body of a cow, killed by a wild animal, to the bonnet of a forest department vehicle. There is no angle of cow slaughter by Muslims in this," he added.

Multiple Indian media organisations such as Hindustan Times and the Free Press Journal also reported on the incident (archived links here and here).

AFP has debunked more misinformation targeting India's Muslim minority here and here.