Social media posts sharing footage of sick and dead cows in Italy claim the animals died after being vaccinated against the coronavirus. This is false; the cattle ingested a plant with high levels of a poisonous compound and were not vaccinated against Covid-19, the veterinarian in charge of the case told AFP.
“WARNING. Graphic Footage. Northern Italy,” says a June 2, 2023 tweet sharing the video. “Government came and vaccinated cattle against cv19. Look at the result all dead or dying the next day.”
But the claims in the posts are false.
Reverse image searches indicate the original footage was published in articles covering an August 2022 incident in northwest Italy. AFP reported at the time that around 50 Piedmontese cattle on a farm in Sommariva del Bosco, near Turin, died due to acute prussic acid poisoning.
The acid comes from dhurrin, a chemical compound that naturally occurs in plants such as young sorghum, although not in the same high concentrations as those found in samples taken at the site.
“We suspect that the drought caused this very large quantity of dhurrin within the sorghum plants,” Stefano Giantin, a veterinarian at the Istituto Zooprofilattico Sperimentale who handled the case, told AFP in August 2022.
Giantin told AFP again on April 31, 2023 that the cows “did not die because they received the vaccine for Covid.” The animals never got the shot, he said.
Instead, Giantin confirmed the cows suffered from “hydrogen cyanide poisoning,” another name for prussic acid.
While some of the animals died quickly, experts saved around 30 cows by injecting them with sodium thiosulfate to neutralize the hydrogen cyanide. Three more farms in the Piedmont area experienced the same phenomenon that summer.
AFP previously debunked a claim that some Covid-19 vaccines can transfer through meat consumption.