Butte, Montana. Hundreds of people have been taken ill in Montana this week with food poisoning, following the state's recent decision to change its laws regarding animal slaughter. Since last month, all abattoirs must by law kill animals by lethal injection.
It was an unusual decision, driven largely by the state's well-developed poison industry, as well as by a small but loud group of animal activists. Animal rights campaigner Badger Everyone said that lethal injection is by far the most humane way to kill. "For a pig, it's like heaven," she said. "They get this blissful dose of drugs and drift off to a happier place."
However, there is an unfortunate side effect of using that method of slaughter. Any animals killed that way will become almost inedible afterwards due to the injected poison. Abattoirs across the state have been confused about the new legislation, as it effectively ruins their business.
This blunder has been made before. When California legalised the lethal injection in 1975, they accidentally poisoned thousands of people before realising that it is not a good way to prepare food. Now, the state is in line with most other US states, which use electrocution to slaughter their animals. Notable exceptions include Texas, which prefers to use a firing squad, and North Dakota, which uses hanging. Up until 1995, the state of Louisiana used the guillotine.
Other countries have taken an even more radical approach to animal welfare. In Sweden they have abolished animal slaughter altogether. This has led to a situation which satisfies nobody, says reindeer herder Reinhard Deer. "What we have to do here is eat our animals while they're still alive, which can be uncomfortable for all involved. These reindeer are my friends. If I'm going to eat them then I'd like to be able to kill them properly first."
Many in Sweden have been hugely affected since animal slaughter was abolished in 2011. Big Macs regularly escape into the sewers where they can spread disease, and what used to be a relaxing smorgasbord has become a dangerous game.
Meanwhile, in Montana, Butte mayor Major Butt-Meier has said that he will allow slaughterhouses to go back to using electrocution while he investigates the poisonings. All lethally injected meat will be burnt at the stake.