The three Chicken Wars, and their (less than) lasting impacts
August 4, 2014 11:52 AM   Subscribe

In the records of human conflicts, there are at least three Chicken Wars. Two left little mark on the world at large, and the third resulted in some strange work-arounds for heavy tariffs. The first was Wojna kokosza, the Chicken or Hen War of 1537, when an anti-royalist and anti-absolutist rokosz (rebellion) by the Polish nobility resulted in near-extinction of local "kokosz" (an egg laying hen), but little else. The second was an odd spin-off of the more serious War of the Quarduple Alliance that lasted from 1717 to 1720. Though most of the activity happened in Europe, there were some battles in North America. The Texas manifestation was the capture of some chickens by French forces from a Spanish mission, and a costly overreaction by Spanish religious and military men. The third Chicken War was a duel of tariffs during the Cold War, with the only lasting casualty being the availability of foreign-made light trucks in the United States.

There aren't many resources in English on the Polish Chicken War of 1537, beyond Wikipedia (linked above) and a less than serious retelling of events.

There is much more documentation and description of The War of the Quadruple Alliance, including the French capture of the settlement of Pensacola in the Spanish colony of Florida in 1719, and the efforts the Spanish to keep the French out of New Mexico, and the story of the Chicken War of 1719 is short in duration and detail.

The lasting impact came from the 1963 "Chicken War" or more appropriately, the "Chicken Tax." Plentiful poultry from the US was flooding Europe, France and West Germany responded by placing a significant tariff on chickens from the US. The discussions of chickens started under President Kennedy, but it was President Lyndon B. Johnson who issued the proclamation that would amend the tariff schedule on potato starch, brandy, dextrine and soluble or chemically treated starches, and automobile trucks.

Much of the 1960s have faded, including the increased tariffs on starches and brandy, but not the chicken tax. Back in the 1970s, the Chevrolet Luv and Ford Courier were built overseas, and a bed was added after they were imported, but customs officials closed that loophole in 1980. More recently, Ford's Transit Connect vans, which are made in Europe, are imported to the US, where posterior side windows are and rear seating is removed, and the vans are converted from passenger vans into more utilitarian vehicles, to the displeasure of U.S. Customs and Border Protection.

A number of trucks that were once made and sold in the US and Canada are no longer available in North America, due to the trucks now being made overseas. The Chicken tax is still discussed a good deal, with hope for the tax being repealed coming up quite often, with perennial hope that this is the year for the tax to roll back.
posted by filthy light thief (15 comments total) 15 users marked this as a favorite
Fantastic and fascinating post. Thank you!

(Though woefully incomplete due to lack of references to the awesome Singaporean movie "Chicken Rice War")
posted by Hairy Lobster at 12:05 PM on August 4, 2014 [1 favorite]

I totally want a VW Amarok.
posted by Monochrome at 12:05 PM on August 4, 2014

Goddamn chickens, they're the very soul of evil. With a "bok bok" here and "bok bok" there, sooner or later you'll have Satan jumping around in your barnyard, if you get what I'm saying.
posted by Purposeful Grimace at 12:26 PM on August 4, 2014

History repeats itself!

Timely post as just today:
posted by CrowGoat at 12:34 PM on August 4, 2014 [1 favorite]

Goddamn chickens, they're the very soul of evil.

Hey now! Chickens are awesome. They make my breakfast every morning. How many pets can you say that about?

I'll give you stupid, because those girls are dumb as rocks, but evil? Nah.
posted by Sophie1 at 1:20 PM on August 4, 2014

Also, great post, looking forward to reading tonight.
posted by Sophie1 at 1:21 PM on August 4, 2014

See, told you.

Any other questions about things to come?
posted by Naberius at 2:00 PM on August 4, 2014 [1 favorite]

For actual weaponized barnyard animals see war pig, not to be confused with Pig War or this other Pig War.

Cry havoc...
posted by XMLicious at 3:25 PM on August 4, 2014

Goddamn chickens, they're the very soul of evil.

u wot m8
posted by stavrosthewonderchicken at 5:56 PM on August 4, 2014 [1 favorite]

See, told you.

I saw that post and thought about the Chicken Wars. I've read about them for a while, but only got around to making this post, well, today.
posted by filthy light thief at 6:08 PM on August 4, 2014

As someone who is driving a larger truck than he needs (but still one of the smallest sold today in the US) because of this stupid issue, let me please register my irritation. (But speaking of the Holden, the subject of the first chicken tax link, wasn't someone selling a kit for turning a generic Pontiac into a ute?)
posted by Dip Flash at 8:10 PM on August 4, 2014

Other random chicken bits (literally): Americans consume so much white meat, and have such disdain for thighs and drumsticks that the vast majority of them are exported, thighs, in particular, to Japan (where boneless chicken breasts are often less than half the cost of thighs), and drumsticks to Russia, where they are (evidently) the preferred part (probably has something to do with Baba Yaga).

Years back, when an illness amongst chickens in Pennsylvania required a large cull, there were shortages in both Japan and Russia, leading McDonalds to suspend sales of nuggets and chicken sandwiches for months. Possibly, as a result of that outbreak, companies set out to diversify their suppliers, which led, last week or so, to a huge scandal involving a US owned meat packing plant in China where video showed workers shoveling minced chicken that had fallen onto the floor back into the mixers. Several outlets stopped chicken sales (the Golden Arches evidently sourced about ten percent of their chicken through that company) leading to creative approaches to prop up the menu.

Ladies and gentlmen, the Tofu Nugget.

apologies for the derail, it's an awesome post, and we should all be aware the weight those vicious, beady-eyed ancestors of dinosaurs have on our geopolitical world
posted by Ghidorah at 4:52 AM on August 5, 2014

The chicken tax isn't keeping small trucks out of the US - incredibly inexpensive full sized trucks and minivans have murdered the market segment. If there was a viable market for it, it would be manufactured by the Big Three or any one of the "Import" brands with US factories (Your Subaru was made in Indiana, and your BMW was made in South Carolina).

Small pickups tend not to be as fuel efficient as you'd think, especially now with the Full-size manufacturers putting most of their R&D money into fuel economy, nor as practical, with small vans being far and away the better option for cargo hauling and mid-sized SUVs for trailering. They're not even that cheap compared to baseline full size pickups once you've got the incentives straightened out.

Noise over the Chicken Tax is usually Big Business and its cronies complaining about any sort of trade restriction and oversight, and promising something - small pickups - they know full well they're not going to give the consumer even if it's lifted in order to apply pressure to the government.
posted by Slap*Happy at 5:04 AM on August 5, 2014

I agree that light trucks aren't a serious boon to the consumer/ the market/ the economy that some make them out to be, but a 25% tariff (compared to 2.5% on other vehicles) seems exorbitantly high, regardless of the actual merits of the vehicle.
posted by filthy light thief at 7:01 AM on August 5, 2014

I feel a discussion of wars on birds is incomplete without mention of the Great Emu War of 1932. Tens of thousands of rounds of ammunition. In their defence, emus are scary.
posted by quercus23 at 6:59 PM on August 6, 2014 [1 favorite]

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