War is hell. And although we'd probably all prefer to believe it is only used as a last resort, this isn’t always the case. Sometimes wars (or threats of war) arise for the silliest reasons, and food issues are among the most absurd offenders

That’s right: Believe it or not, disagreements over food have actually led to full-blown wars, or at least came close. If the parties involved were lucky, the disputes got resolved before any combat actually ensues, but this wasn’t always the case.

Keep this in mind the next time a major conflict pops up in the world. Despite how ridiculous we may view the reasoning behind the squabble, it probably isn’t nearly as bad as the issues in question here. And finally, as a disclaimer, we should mention that this article is not meant to be a political statement of any kind. It’s just — pardon the pun — food for thought.



1. The Grattan Fight/The First Sioux War

On August 17, 1854, a cow belonging to a Mormon traveling on the Oregon Trail strayed and was killed and eaten by a member of the Miniconjou tribe (a subdivision of the Lakota Sioux) near Fort Laramie, in what is now Wyoming. Instead of waiting for a local Indian Agent to settle the dispute (as per regulations of the Treaty of 1851), a trigger-happy recent graduate of West Point, Lt. John Lawrence Grattan, brought 28 soldiers to confront the local Sioux, who was hosting the visiting Miniconjou, and demand that the miscreant be delivered to them. Discussions quickly escalated, and a jumpy soldier fired his gun, mortally wounding the tribal chief. The Sioux attacked, killing all 29 soldiers. The First Sioux War, which ensued, lasted for two years, but some historians suggest that almost a quarter of a century of battles between local tribes and the U.S. military were set off by the Grattan incident.



2. The Great Emu War

No, this war was not fought over emus — it was fought against them. In 1932, Australian farmers complained that over 20,000 emus had infiltrated their fields and were consuming their crops. In response, Major G.P.W. Meredith of the Royal Australian Artillery and two soldiers armed with machine guns embarked on a six-week campaign to rid the region of the flightless birds. Despite firing almost 10,000 rounds, the soldiers proved no match for the emus, who, capable of running over 50 mph, were faster even than the trucks on which the guns were mounted. The week-long effort was later viewed as both a failure and a laughingstock, with many of the birds even surviving being directly struck by gunfire. Major Meredith later stated, “If we had a military division with the bullet-carrying capacity of these birds, it would face any army in the world. They can face machine guns with the invulnerability of tanks.”


Overhead view of honeybees on a comb (iStock)

3. The Honey War

Back in the 1830s, a territorial dispute arose when Missouri tax collectors ventured into the border region between their state and what is now Iow (then part of the Wisconsin Territory), and discovered a dispute over where the dividing line was between the two. Denied the taxes they believed were owed, the Missourians cut down three trees and collected the honey therin instead. A mob of Iowans in turn captured and jailed a Missouri sheriff , and both sides lined up in the border region, ready for battle. Thankfully, the two governors involved agreed to have the issue resolved by Congress before any shots were fired, and the sheriff was released.



4. The Pastry War

As a result of conflict between the new Mexican government and warring factions competing for control, four days of fighting in Mexico City in 1828 resulted in widespread destruction and looting. One of the victims of the violence was a French chef named Remontel, who claimed that Mexican officers destroyed his pastry shop, and demanded an immensely-inflated 600,000 pesos in damages.

The issue fizzled out, but more than a decade later, it was brought to the attention of King Louis-Philippe of France, who was already furious over Mexico’s outstanding debts to his country. After the Mexican government balked at the king’s request for them to compensate Remontel, France sent a naval fleet to blockade all Mexican ports from Yucatán to the Rio Grande. War was declared by Mexico, and the two sides fought for nearly four months, at the cost of about 100 lives, before British diplomatic intervention resulted in a resolution — which included the condition that Mexico’s president repay the baker’s 600,000 pesos.

Check out more epic food fights.

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