Guest author: History Raetold

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Australia’s fucking mad, isn’t it? A country that we stole and turned into a prison, which then evolved back into a country, filled with monsters that want to kill you, all situated directly on the surface of the sun. 

(I’ve never been to Australia, I’m just extrapolating this from TV and the internet.) So it’ll come as no surprise to any of us that the Australian government once went to war against emus. 

You know, the birds.


Shortly after WWI, which Australia was involved in for some reason (I asked my Australian friend about this and she told me “we wanted to protect our interests in Papua New Guinea, which is like Australia’s hat”, which cleared up exactly nothing), they found themselves with a surplus of ex-soldiers who no longer had jobs, due to the lack of war. So, to keep them happy, the Australian government gave them all some land, and were like “why not try being farmers?”

Which has a similar skill set to soldiering? I don’t know, I guess they just had an excess of empty space (what with Australia being enormous with a population of twelve) and figured they could just stick the soldiers somewhere and move on.

Frustratingly, the soldiers-turned-farmers struggled a little with the farming, partially due to the fact that none of them had any farming experience, and partially because Australia is ON THE SURFACE OF THE SUN so I imagine it’s hard to grow stuff.  But also because of the emus.

You know emus? Small fluffy-headed dinosaurs? Kinda like big feathery dogs with sharp feet?

These guys. Like a muppet fucked a T-Rex. Truly awful.

Well, they’d been plundering the soldiers-turned-farmers’ fields, destroying their hard-grown crops and making holes in their fences, which allowed rabbits in. 

Here, the Wikipedia article links to a separate article about the chaos rabbits have caused in Australia, which is seemingly a whole other fucking can of worms that I’m not going to open.

(I could’ve made a joke here about going down a rabbit hole, but I’m not going to because I’m better than that).

Because the farmers were all ex-soldiers, they decided to deal with this problem in the most effective way they knew how: with machine guns.

So they turned to the Australian government to ask permission, and the Minister of Defence, a guy called Sir George Pearce, was utterly inexplicably like “SURE WHY THE FUCK NOT LET’S DECLARE WAR ON EMUS”. I’m not 100% sure why they went along with this utter madness, but they also hired a cinematographer to document everything so I guess… to get content for their Vine account? Who knows.

Sir George Pearce: the face of a man whose main legacy was trying to shoot a bird with a gun.

Anyway, the government armed all the farmers with machine guns (sure), dispatched troops to Western Australia (why not), and got about their… civil war. Against birds. But here was the thing. The birds won.

Ok actually, let’s go back a bit to fully grasp the lunacy of this whole enterprise. First of all, they had to delay their attack on the birds because it was raining. Which, yeah, fair, it only rains for one day a century in Australia because they’re literally on the surface of the sun, so it probably threw them for a loop. Don’t have the infrastructure for it. After the weather cleared up a bit, they got back to business. They had been instructed to collect 100 emu skins in order to make hats for light horsemen. 

Right, ok, so this little tidbit here is the reason why this specific story took me so long to write. I kept getting to this bit, trying to think of a joke, and getting so overwhelmed I had to go and lie down.  The Australian government. Declared war on emus. So they could collect enough feathers. To make hats. What.

Official photograph of the Prime Minister of Australia at the time.

Let’s all take a moment to get over this emotional rollercoaster before cracking on with the actual war.

OKAY SO it turns out it’s really hard to shoot emus with guns, so the farmers decided to try and herd the birds into an ambush. Unfortunately for them, the emus fucking unionised. 

No, seriously. The emus tactically out-manoeuvred the army. They split into small groups and spread out. In fact, the actual quote from Major Meredith, military leader of the whole operation, is 100 times funnier than anything I could say here: “each pack seems to have its own leader now – a big, black-plumed bird which stands fully six feet high and keeps watch while his mates carry out their work of destruction and warns them of our approach”.

The emus were also accused of developing “guerrilla tactics”, which rendered the army’s initial plan of point-blank fire useless. The human army attempted to strap a machine gun to the back of a truck, so they could chase the birds down, but the roads were too bumpy and they couldn’t aim properly. 

A couple of days after the first attack, they tried another ambush, luring over a thousand birds within point-blank range. They killed a dozen emus, before their gun jammed, at which point I assume the emus killed and ate them out of pity.

Guys. C’mon.

Yippie-ki-yay mother clucker.

Yes I know emus don’t cluck. Shut up. I’m very tired and the world’s on fire.

After a few attacks, there were eventually “a number” of emu deaths recorded. This is such a delightfully vague term, because a number could be hundreds, or it could be one singular emu. The more concrete numbers thrown around seem to vary from 50–500 birds, though I’m inclined to lean towards the lower number because the higher numbers were provided by the gun-wielding farmers who, let’s be honest, clearly can’t be relied on for fucking anything. 

Honestly, what surprises me most is that they didn’t decide to enlist the emus into the Australian human army, because they were very clearly significantly more competent than the actual soldiers. 

Personally, I would’ve switched loyalties half an hour into the first battle and joined the emu army.

Either way, after about a month, a crestfallen and defeated group of farmers and actual trained soldiers withdrew from combat. 

You know. From the war they were having. With birds. 

After this, they tried one more time with slightly more, but still limited, success, and then moved towards a bounty system, where vigilante bird-hunters would be paid for each dead emu they delivered. If nothing else, this was at least a less flagrant misuse of government funds. All in all, this goes to show that random vigilante justice is always the best solution to everything. 

Even later, around the early 1930s, they moved to a different, more economically viable emu-prevention technique, which proved to be massively successful. Taller fences, guys. It was taller fences.

Seriously. They went to “all-out land war with birds” before they tried taller fences.

Australia. What the fuck.

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