A video alongside a set of images is being circulated across WhatsApp in India, claiming that China is producing canned beef with human body parts which is being sent to Africa.
BOOM investigated the claim and found it to be false. The video shared across WhatsApp is unrelated to China's production of canned meat products or imports to Africa or other countries.
The video captures a person in a long gown with their head and face concealed with a hat and face mask, skinning off human corpses in an alleyway or street besides a concrete wall, where many other dead bodies are strewn and similarly attired individuals standing around. Images shared with this video and claim, are unrelated photos of canned meat products, a bare human body on a steel table overseen by lab coated individuals and animal carcasses hung in the back.
The caption along with the video and image states: "Please send this to all your contacts, it's very important. Chinese people have started producing corned beef with their dead bodies and sending them to Africa. Please stay away from corned beef irrespective of brand, most especially in Africa and from Afro-Asian grocery shops." The mass forwarded message on WhatsApp mostly does not share the same images, but uses a screenshot of a Facebook post with the caption and accompanying photos.
(TRIGGER WARNING: Graphic visuals, corpses and body parts)
View the WhatsApp forward as received on BOOM's helpine number (+917700906111) below:
View one of the earliest Facebook posts claiming the same with the images below.
(TW: Graphic visuals, corpses and body parts)
(TW: Graphic visuals, corpses and body parts)
The post has been shared on Twitter with the similar format as viral on WhatsApp as a screenshot off Facebook.
Be careful of canned food especially beef, noddles from China, some are made from plastic or rubber others from dead bodies pic.twitter.com/NznFh7QDxA— Daniel Nwojiji (@DynastDan) September 21, 2016
Varied versions and sets of morbid images have circulated on the internet since 2016 like this Nairaland post, which netizens have shared as China producing canned or corned beef with human flesh, to import to Africa. However, the video is more visibly being shared on WhatsApp in India over the last few days.
On Facebook, a video has been uploaded showing a device screen playing the video in context alongside the same claim. View a screengrab below:
View a screenshot of the video file received by BOOM over WhatsApp below:
(TW: Graphic visuals, violence, corpses and body parts)
BOOM broke down the video's key frames and using image anaylsis tool, Yandex, was able to trace the video to third party websites that speculated it to be capturing a Tibetan-Buddhist tradition of a 'sky burial'. The image sets shared along with the claim were found to be unrelated to each other. The images of the canned meat products were generic product images, while the image of the skinned human body on the morgue table is from a video game's promotional campaign of a 'human meat' shop.
The images of the human carcasses hanging in an industrial setup and the bare body are from a marketing activation in 2012 in London called the 'Wesker & Son Resident Evil Human Butchery'. The shop was a pop-up in London's Smithfield Market to promote the Resident Evil 6 video game in September 2012.
View images from The Daily Mail's article below:
The seemingly gruesome video of the human corpse being skinned with a cleaver by an individual, in gown like apparel and concealing their face, was found to be linked to the tradition of sky burials as practiced in Buddhist and Tibetan cultures.
One of the earliest versions of the video can be traced down to 2016 only on an international NSFW 18+ website due to the graphic and violent happenings in the video.
The video seems to have been pulled down from social media and video platforms, due to it violating content policies. Thus the original version of the video may not be available over the internet. However, many comments on sites sharing the website and other fact checks also point towards the footage capturing the 'sky burial' ritual.
One upload among the French community on vk.com has a comment which debates the claim as being the Tibetan last rite practice.
The second comment translates from French to "Info: Tibetan tradition: the dead (who wanted it before) are cut out to be given to eat in crows ...An ultimate which to the other beings of this carcass become useless ..."
More research into sky burials led us to videos below:
'Sky burials' are a part of the Vajrayana tradition of Buddhism. The philosophy believes that one's body is merely a vessel for the soul. Upon death, the soul departs from the body, not having any practical use.Thus, the physical bodies should be returned to nature which is done by Buddhist monks to the departed members of their community. Sky Burials are practiced in the Chinese provinces and autonomous regions of Tibet, Qinghai, Sichuan, and Inner Mongolia, as well as in Mongolia, Bhutan, and parts of India such as Sikkim and Zanskar. For Buddhists, the ritual represents the impermanence of life. Since vultures prey on the bodies, it is given the title of 'sky'.
A common theme across the videos is the garments worn by the Tibetans in videos documenting the practice and the viral video with the unrelated claim. The long gowns worn by the Buddhist monks in Sky Burial videos correspond with the ones worn by individuals seen in the video circulating on WhatsApp.
Other videos capturing the same practice can be watched below: