|The Chicken Defense|
Time [Magazine] Europe
Simon Robinson/South of the Kuwait-Iraq Border
February 19, 2003
U.S. Troops will be using poultry to detect chemical attacks in
A war against Iraq will see the debut of some of the most sophisticated
weaponry ever used. But U.S. troops will also rely on one of the
most low-tech detection devices around: chickens. Worried that the
pollution from blown oil installations will clog up complicated
detection equipment and make it difficult to pick up deadly chemical
and nerve agents, U.S. marines and soldiers will drive into battle
dusty plains of Iraq with caged chickens atop their Hum-Vees.
The chickens, which were otherwise destined for Kuwaiti dinner
tables, will work in the same way as canaries in coal mines used
to. Small traces of poisonous gases or chemical agent will kill
the birds and warn troops to put on their gas masks. "A sky
full of oil can mask some chemicals," says Warrant Officer
Jeff French, a nuclear, biological and chemical officer for a marine
battalion in Kuwait. "Using chickens may sound basic but it's
still one of the best ways we have of detecting chemical agent."
Dubbed Operation Kuwaiti Field Chicken (KFC), the use of chickens
is sure to enrage animal activists. But chickens were used to detect
for chemicals during the first Gulf War, and, says French, consider
that the alternative may be dozens of dead troops. Consider too
that marines and soldiers will face nerve-racking moments with or
without chickens. U.S. troops in Kuwait have been training to fight
and live in their protective suits but at some point after a chemical
attack they will have to take them off.
After testing for chemicals, one or two men - usually of different
sizes and races - will remove their masks in a "selective unmasking."
Those who keep their masks on will study the skin and pupils of
for symptoms of lingering airborne chemicals. "Using chemicals
is a really unfair way of fighting," says French. "The
best way to describe it is if I blindfolded you and came and kicked
you in the groin as hard
as I can. It's just not fair. But whatever Saddam throws at us,
we'll be ready.
Chickens willing . . .
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the compassionate and respectful treatment of domestic fowl.
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