Excerpt – Animal Farm 2


Under Lord Nikos’ rule, Animal Farm had increased productivity and the pigs had become affluent. After he had served the maximum of two terms, there was an election to find his successor. All the candidates were pigs and a boar named Leonard was elected. The worker animals hoped he would relax the conditions of their servitude.

Lord Leonard was a Large Black, with a long, deep-body, bred by humans for foraging. Under Lord Nikos, he had been the farm’s construction engineer, managing civil works such as the dam. His planning was bureaucratic. He informed the community what they should want, without consideration for others. He had no interest in the worker animals. He ordered their food like a person feeding goldfish he has inherited and doesn’t want to live, allowing them to slowly starve, distancing himself so as not to appear cruel.

He ushered in an age of autocratic efficiency in the running of the Farm, allocating resources carefully and assigning every animal a specific task.

‘Your main concern is to do the work assigned to you in the time required,’ he said. ‘When you have done it, you will be eligible to receive food and shelter.’

Although they didn’t like their assignments, they gave the worker animals purpose.

‘I have become a mobile milk factory,’ said Milk Bar. ‘I have to eat continually.’

‘You should be so lucky,’ said Tosser, her partner. ‘I am bloody starving.’

‘If a hen fails to lay an egg daily, the pigs give it the chop,’ said Nestle. She was a gentle creature, speckled and cautious, moving quietly around the farm buildings, foraging and hiding away her eggs. She had never dared to give an opinion.

Like all the worker animals, Milk Bar’s lifestyle had tedium. She had more variety than most animals. She ate, digested, was milked and bore calves.

Even so, Milk Bar perceived a bleak future.

‘My milk is declining. I haven’t many years left,’ she said.

‘We will all be eaten eventually,’ said Mokey the donkey, mournfully. He was needed to pull puts. Donkeys ate little and had stamina to load and pull heavy loads of hay, grain sheaves, turnips and potatoes. Mokey was overloaded and complained a lot. Pathos was his forte, with a dismal outlook on events but intuitive intelligence.

The Farm customarily had only one donkey and Mokey’s existence was lonely but pivotal. When the other animals heard Mokey bray, it reassured them that all was well, punctuating their lives that otherwise would have seemed empty.

Although the Farm kept only one donkey jack and Mokey lacked a donkey jenny, he was not discouraged from mating with the carthorse mares, if he was able. Through athletic persistence, these unions produced a steady supply of mules, strong and steady animals, suitable for ploughing and cultivation.

When the abattoir truck came to take Scrote and Sharon away later that week, the workers detected a new desperate note in Mokey’s sonorous braying and came running. They were shocked and sad. The two had been cornerstones of their lives on the Farm. They were consoled to have Noddy, their son, still with them.

‘My father wanted us to be independent thinkers and we have come a long way,’ Noddy said. ‘We must continue developing the skills he taught us, earning respect that will gain our liberation.’

Mokey reached old age. A lorry brought Oscar, a younger donkey jack, taking away a couple of sheep and Mellie the goat in exchange. Old Mokey enjoyed Oscar’s company for a few more months, until the abattoir truck took him away. He knew where he was going, but told the younger animals he was going to a retirement farm.

‘I’m looking forward to this,’ he said.

The older animals were sad.

‘We have to hope that they allow him dignity,’ Tosser said. ‘He was an important part of Animal Farm.’

The Farm was a commercial success and the pigs held Open Days each year to show it off. Visitors saw how wind power was used to mill grain and how efficiently the labour of animal workers could be utilised. Oscar, a donkey jack and a mule, Big Ears, were harnessed side by side, towing a turntable around driving the mill when there was no wind. Big Ears was tall, like his mother Titani and he walked the longer outer circle, staying abreast of Oscar, with his shorter legs on the inside.

Tosser was past middle age and in splendid condition. He and Milk Bar had birthed a series of calves but only Rondo, Steroid and Myrtle were left to them. Milk Bar’s milk was beginning to dry up and Tosser had lost his drive. He knew that it wouldn’t be long before the pigs would send him to the abattoir and Rondo would take over from him. He had taken to questioning his ideas. Leadership of the cattle was a constant challenge, with younger animals always disagreeing and challenging.

‘I try to have some fun,’ thought Rondo. ‘Our lives would be drab otherwise. I was lucky the pigs kept me when they sold off my siblings. Being chief bull to a herd of cattle has its rewards but I try not to let it go to my head. My first was Buttercup but she is small, a Jersey and I have grown too heavy for her now. I am leader of all the animals in dealing with the pigs on farming matters. The pigs are unreliable and dishonest, difficult to deal with.’

Matings between relatives were inevitable in the closed community of the Farm. Dysfunctional characteristics from inbreeding seldom occurred. Because Rondo’s incestuous mating with his cousins could inbreed recessive defects, such as albinism, the pigs bought Earl, a Charolais bull calf, large and pale straw coloured, a fast grower.

The pigs had castrated Steroid, a step brother, with Burdizzo pinchers, severing his epididymides. Although he could not perform all a bull’s duties, he was gentle and an excellent group leader, in intimate relations with both males and females.

Pamela could be mated now and take over from Milk Bar. She was sassy and inclined to be flighty, sharing her company with several young bulls. Buttercup, a Jersey, was a small cow and needed a lighter bull to avoid injuring her. Perhaps if Rondo served her before he was fully grown he would not be too heavy for her to bear.

Lord Leonard was less autocratic than Lord Nikos with a committee of high-ranking pigs advising him. It was a rigid bureaucracy, merciless in its exploitation of worker animals.

Molly skulked around the perimeter of the home paddock, waiting for strays, before racing in and driving the sheep into a tight mob where they stood facing her, stamping their feet. The sheep would stay together in a flock where they felt protected. They disliked isolation or being the centre of attention and preferred to go along with their leader’s view. Noddy had attempted to charge Molly down but she was too quick for him and they eyed each other warily, as he stamped his foot.

‘Molly can’t stop herself from herding sheep,’ said Noddy.

She loved to round up and drive mobs of unruly animals from pasture to pasture, bailing them up and waiting for someone to separate some out. With cattle she was circumspect because they could injure or kill her with a kick or a charge.

Molly lived with the pigs at the farmhouse. Sometimes, she came sneaking down to the farmyard, in her sheepdog way, to find out what the animals were doing.

‘We can suppose Molly lets the pigs know what we are talking about,’ said Hannah.

‘She helps keep us on the same page as the pigs,’ said Tosser. ‘It could be worse.’

He had inducted Molly into her predecessor Keep Me’s double agent role.

‘It would be good if she could get the pigs to respect us.’

‘She is helping our communication with them,’ Tosser said. ‘Without her, there would be more cruelty and violence.’

‘D’you think so?’ said Noddy. ‘If it gets any worse we will revolt and kill the bastards.’

‘Maybe Molly has passed that view to the pigs.’

‘Their view is that unless we comply, we will be sent to the abattoir.’

‘She mediates between us and without her things would probably be worse.’

‘I suppose we should be grateful for her.’

‘I wonder what she wants?’

‘Hmm. What does she get?’

‘A dog’s life. She gets the blame.’

‘I’m going to be nicer to her.’

Molly either didn’t know, or pretended to be unaware, of the sheep’s dancing. They met secretly at night to spin like whirling dervishes under the Moon, transported by their motion together, whirling and twirling, trying to outdo each other in speed and grace of movements.

 Sometimes when Molly had discussed ideas with the animal workers, she would pass them to Giraud. He was a scientific pig, an idealist who advised Lord Leonard. A Gascon boar, an ancient French breed, he was a hardy type with black skin covered in thick wiry black hair, a pointed face and heavy lop ears. He kept his books in the harness room and allowed the animals to use them. He advised Lord Leonard on horticulture, veterinary treatments, meteorology, energy supply technology and atmospheric physics.

‘Giraud’s good value,’ Noddy said to Harvey, a growing lamb mothered by Noddy’s sister Eugenia. ‘He’s friendly, knows a lot and answers my questions. He might be interested in animal rights.’

The animals’ wider interest was in bettering their conditions.

‘When are the pigs going to liberate us?’ Gloria asked Molly. ‘We have rights.’

Gloria was young and excitable, a tall draft horse. She cantered past Tosser and Milk Bar every morning as they took their walk. She had not revealed her plan to escape with Lucy to anyone. They couldn’t go until they could get past the wall. There was a rumour it would be opened up.

‘I want to keep in shape,’ she said. ‘The work we do is physical and my back gets plenty to do, but I have other muscles that are seldom used, unless I go for a run.’

‘Gloria is in good shape,’ said Tosser.

‘Hmph,’ Milk Bar said. ‘She’s an attractive filly. She turns a few heads I’ve noticed. I wonder if she has any other reason for getting fit.’

Education was the way to freedom for Noddy and many of the animals. They studied in the harness room after finishing work in the fields and domestic chores. Noddy taught applied science on days alternating with the meteorology class he had also taken over from his father. He led wide-ranging discussions, careful to avoid criticism of the pigs. Science lessons were usually hands-on experiments for the animal students to do. The language teacher brought equipment borrowed from the university for experiments. The animals also studied the library books privately, asking Giraud questions and discussing news about energy policy that Keep Me brought from the pigs, or gleaned from television broadcasts, or they heard from neighbouring farm animals. Environmental concerns were effluents, liquid and solid wastes, smoky fires, waste heat, trees, forests and wetlands. The worker animals came to understand the pigs’ policies on the environment, pollution and energy, but they were not allowed to ask questions.

Lord Leonard’s bureaucracy planned and managed the Farm’s production of fruit, vegetables, grains, legumes, roots, hay and livestock. Molly had good access to Lord Leonard. She tried to persuade the other animals to accept the pigs’ harsh leadership was necessary and their luxuries were reasonable.

‘Our pigs have to decide difficult matters,’ said Molly. ‘In order to concentrate, they need superior conditions. They would prefer to have a simple life and live down here in the farm buildings with you, but living in the farmhouse is a sacrifice they are willing to make for everyone.’

The animals didn’t believe her and resented pig privileges. Pigs lazed in the farmhouse and when they came out, barged around with their heads down, ill-mannered and quarrelsome, looking under stones for worms, snails and slugs. They were unfriendly with the other animals, perceiving themselves as more worthy.

The animals were suspicious of Molly and some of them wanted to exclude her but Tosser always took her side.

The animals’ conformance was ensured by pig police, who terrorised them, luring dissidents from hiding and punishing them savagely. The pigs’ ethos was that their leader had an ambitious and splendid vision, to be achieved by the other animals’ hard work, which it was their duty to enforce. Part of their ideology was that goats were conspiring to lead the other animals astray. They locked up Coral in solitary confinement for a week.

‘She hasn’t done anything wrong,’ Noddy told Molly.

‘The pigs say they caught her just in time,’ said Molly.

‘I hardly think she was any threat. This was prejudiced persecution.’

Electricity from an old wood-fired steam generator was reticulated to homes and businesses throughout the island. But even at full capacity, there was not enough power to meet demand. The animals had rebuilt the windmill twice during Napoleon’s time, once after Farmer Jones’ attack and again after a storm. Lord Leonard had the windmill converted to drive an electrical generator and the electricity was used in brewing beer. When a paddock was ploughed up, and potatoes planted for fermenting vodka, the electricity was available for barn machinery and the farmhouse. There wasn’t enough to reticulate to the animal workers’ quarters and they were without light and warmth.

Growing potatoes required a lot of work. First the ground had to be ploughed and harrowed. Horace poured his huge energy into cultivation from daylight to dusk. He and Titani pulled a single furrow mole-board plough and Tiny followed with drag harrows. He was another Clydesdale stallion but younger, who would one day replace Horace. He had made advances to Gloria but had been warned off by her parents because she was not yet sufficiently mature to work and raise a foal. They heaped up the soil in ridges, placing seed potatoes along the troughs and turning the soil back over them. They pumped water from the dam to flow between the ridges and start the sets growing. When greenery emerged on the ridges, they heaped the soil up around the plants with the plough.

Four months later, when the plants had fully grown, they used the plough to unearth clusters of white new potatoes, which sheep picked into baskets to take to the store in a clamp beside the buildings. The potatoes were heaped together and covered with dirt to keep them moist but cool to prevent sprouting.

Most of the potatoes went for vodka-making. They were a favourite of the pigs, who boiled them in an old laundry tub.

 ‘Will we get to eat any of the potatoes?’ asked Harvey.

Potatoes were a preferred food of most of the animals.

‘No. Potatoes are bad for ordinary animals,’ said Molly, trotting to and fro anxiously in the sheepdog manner. ‘Leonard says they could poison us. Fortunately, pigs are not affected. So there’s nothing to worry about.’ She wagged her tail winningly.

The animals’ food supply remained confined to mouldy hay and turnips that sometimes were rotten.

The windmill generated little electricity.

‘In summer the cyclonic winds are too strong.’ Molly said. ‘When they feather the turbine blades to prevent damage, no electricity is generated. In winter anticyclones bring cold air and there is too little wind to turn them. Neither in winter nor summer can the wind generator be relied on to supply electricity.’

Lord Leonard cancelled other wind turbines he had ordered.

When winter came, the animals were kept warm by the thick coats they had grown and by huddling together for warmth in the draughty buildings. Frosts froze the dam and horses had to stamp on the ice to break it so the animals could drink. The liberation they hoped for would have food, shelter, warmth and be free of pigs.