Philip Sadler CBE

Futurist, Author, Speaker

Futurist
Author
Speaker

Animal Firm First two chapters of my (unfinished) novelette a satire based on Animal Farm

17/01/2011

Animal Firm
1. A look at history
As is common knowledge, way back in.the 1940s, following an inspirational speech by Old Major, a prize Middle White boar, the animals took control of Manor Farm, expelling the cruel and incompetent owner Mr Jones. They gave it the historic name - Animal Farm.
At first they established a democratic regime under which the farm prospered. The animals’ motivation more than made up for the lack of their ability to use most of the tools and equipment. Two highly intelligent pigs, Napoleon and Snowball, emerged as the natural leaders; a horse called Boxer set an example by his outstanding work rate, and the other animals set to with varying degrees of enthusiasm.
Every Sunday morning a meeting was held in the barn at which issues of common interest were discussed and decisions made. Afterwards all the animals joined in singing the hymn that Old Major had taught them – Beasts of England. The only animal to remain unmoved by all this euphoria was a donkey called Benjamin, who looked on the whole affair with detached cynicism.
At this time Snowball climbed a ladder and wrote seven commandments on the side of the barn, the last of which was ‘All animals are equal’. The animals found it difficult to remember all seven, so Snowball announced that they could sum them up in the maxim ‘Four legs good, two legs bad.’
When a group of neighbouring farmers attempted to retake the farm with violence they were repelled, thanks largely to Snowball’s heroic leadership and Boxer’s courage. The animals unanimously decided to create a medal for bravery – Animal Hero, First Class - and to bestow it on these two.
As time went on it became apparent that Snowball and Napoleon were increasingly at loggerheads.. Each had his supporters and there were many heated arguments. Napoleon had a particularly strong following among the sheep.
An issue that deeply divided the animals was the building of a windmill. Snowball advocated it on the grounds that its labour-saving qualities would mean the animals would need to work only three days a week. Napoleon argued that priority should be given to food production. At the meeting when a final decision was due to be taken, nine fierce dogs were called in by Napoleon and began attacking Snowball who narrowly escaped their snapping jaws and was last seen disappearing through a hole in the hedge.
Napoleon then mounted the platform and announced that there would be no more Sunday meetings and that decisions would, in future, be taken by a committee of pigs over which he would preside., Snowball was branded a criminal; animals suspected of secretly supporting him or critical of the new regime were executed by the dogs, usually after they had ‘confessed.’
Shortly after these traumatic events Napoleon announced that the windmill should now be built. He explained that he had been the first to advocate the idea and had only opposed it in order to expose Snowball’s treachery. The process of construction was a slow and laborious process and could not have been achieved without the extraordinary efforts of the horse Boxer.
Napoleon the announced that they would now engage in trade with neighbouring farms in order to be able to buy certain materials essential to the windmill project. He reassured them that this would not mean that they would have to have contact with humans as he would take this burden upon himself. He explained that he had made an arrangement with a Mr Whymper, a solicitor in the nearby town of Willingdon who would act for them as an intermediary.
Before the windmill was finished a terrible storm sprang up one night and to the general dismay, daybreak revealed it as a heap of rubble. Napoleon took advantage of the calamity and the emotion it aroused to allocate the blame to Snowball and offered a reward for his capture. The work of rebuilding the windmill then began.
Napoleon now instituted a reign of terror. Several pigs, some hens, a few sheep and a goose were executed, having made public confession of their crimes. The singing of the revolutionary hymn, Beasts of England was banned.
The windmill was now complete, but the animals joy was short-lived, for it was soon followed by another attack on the farm by humans during which they destroyed the windmill with an explosive charge. And so they set about the task for a third time. And again it was Boxer who made by far the biggest contribution. Yet when he finally became old and ill, he was sent to the knacker’s yard instead of being pensioned off and put out to graze.
Productivity fell and the animals (except the dogs and the pigs) were close to starvation. The pigs took over the farmhouse and began living much like human beings, including developing a fondness for beer and whisky. The seventh commandment was amended to read ‘All animals are equal, but some are more equal than others.’ The farm’s name was returned to its name in the Mr. Jones era -– Manor Farm.

* * * * * * * *

In the world outside the early excitement about a farm run by its animals died down and was forgotten. Mr Whymper continued to act for the animals as a go-between in their various transactions for many years and when he died his son continued to represent them. He was able to use his professional knowledge to get the farm entered into the Land Registry as the property of a Mr. A Hogg. As the farm was in one of the most sparsely populated parts of Cumbria, life was able to go on in this way undisturbed for year after year. When hikers turned up, looking for milk or a place to pitch a tent, they would be driven away by the ganders, or, if they persisted, by Basil the bull.

What is not generally known is that the brutal, oppressive regime that Napoleon had initiated was finally overthrown in 1989.
Following his succession to the leadership in that year, Lewis, a direct descendant of Napoleon, began gradually to promote a policy of openness in public discussions about current and historical problems. He called the policy ‘glasnost’, which he said meant openness. The brutality of the Napoleonic era, such as the great purges and the massacres, were acknowledged, and the corruption and economic stagnation that had followed were sharply criticized.
The farm’s elites, who were still drawn exclusively from the pigs, became less authoritarian and a retraining programme was set in hand for the dogs. Many of the features of life on the farm in the days immediately following the expulsion of Mr Jones were restored. The pigs no longer enjoyed all the privileges that they had seized at the time of Napoleon’s coup. They moved out of the farmhouse, together with the dogs and the building was now used partly as a store and partly as a farm office. The Sunday meetings in the barn were reinstated, as was the singing of the hymn Beasts of England. The seventh commandment was amended again to read

‘All animals have equal opportunity.’.

The original revolutionary flag –a green tablecloth on which a white hoof and a white horn were painted, was discovered in a drawer and hoisted with ceremony every Sunday morning.
Snowball’s reputation was restored and a statue to his memory was erected in the yard. A portrait of Old Major was discovered and hung in the barn.
A large screen television was installed in the barn and in the evenings the animals would watch their favourite programmes such as Animal Hospital and Vets Practice or rented videos of their favourite films such as 10001 Dalmatians or Babe.
Productivity rose again under the new regime and within ten years it became possible to buy the two neighbouring farms, Foxwood and Pinchfield, which had become very run down. Finally the old name Animal Farm was reintroduced and the signs proclaiming Manor Farm were torn down.
Some problems remained, however. In particular some animals took advantage of the new liberal regime. Some pigs stole from the apple store and some dogs took to lying in the sun when they should have been offering guidance to the sheep. Kate, one of the farm cats was particularly delinquent and was caught stealing the cream from the milk on several occasions.
In 1995 Lewis introduced a major change, setting up an elected committee under his chairmanship to manage the farm. The days of a hogopoly were over. All animals were declared eligible for membership and, indeed, the committee had a very diverse membership from the start.
Lewis’s other main achievement was his introduction of a literacy programme. During the years that followed Napoleon’s imposition of an oppressive regime, standards of literacy had fallen sharply. Now the animals were required to attend literacy classes three mornings a week. Some achieved quite high standards after a year or so, while others continued to find difficulty in making out the simplest words. Their offspring, however, benefiting from attending classes from an early age, were developing excellent linguistic skills. Lewis set up a library of suitable reading matter, in which the animals’ favourite works were The Wind in the Willows, Black Beauty, Watership Down and Winnie the Pooh.
Lewis continued as chairman until 1998 when he suffered a stroke and died. His son Gordon was elected by a great majority to succeed him. Other members of the committee were John the carthorse (a descendant of the noble martyr Boxer.), Jack the goat, one of the sheepdogs –whose name was Harry, a gander called Graham, a sow called Harriet and a particularly clever pig called Ed.
2. A new beginning
Gordon was resolved to carry on the programme of reform that his father had begun and to build a new future for the farm in the Millennium.
He spent the early years of his chairmanship reading widely, studying and thinking deeply about the future. At first the other animals were disappointed in him, since they had expected that on becoming chairman he would announce some exciting or even revolutionary plans straightaway. But then they began to nod wisely and say to each other ‘He is taking his time.’ Or ‘He is not rushing into things’. Nevertheless, they waited anxiously, and in some cases fearfully, for him to pronounce
With the help of Walter Whymper (grandson of the animal’s human ally sixty areas earlier) and Whymper’s daughter Virginia, Gordon learned to use a computer and to get access to the internet.
‘The great thing about the internet’ said Whymper ‘is that no-one will know you are a pig.’
Gordon signed up to an on-line library in America called Questia and read many books on modern techniques of farm management. He set various programmes of improvement in hand which began increasing the crop yield, improving the quality of the fruit and generally raising standards.
Through Virginia, who was an animal lover, he made contact with organisations working for animal welfare, secretly forming a close relationship with one of these - Animal Assistance. Through social network sites he made many friends among animal lovers (as well as a human girl friend in Poland called Olga.)
He then moved on to books on business management and found the latest theories of management totally absorbing. His favourite business book was Jack: Straight from the Gut – Jack Welch’s account of his management triumphs. Using the name J. Hogg, he registered for an MBA by distance learning from a University in Florida and passed with distinction, becoming the first pig in the world to gain such an academic honour.






He then set about applying his new knowledge and was strongly influenced by a book called Competing for the Future which persuaded him the he needed to invent a new future for the farm, otherwise it would not survive. He began to develop some thoughts about what that future might be like, but first he needed yet more knowledge.
First, he studied the technology of food processing and sent off for catalogues from manufacturers of food-processing machinery. Secondly, he studied the principles of on-line marketing. And finally he read all he could find about the creation and management of consumer brands. He was now ready to go. But how to persuade the other animals to come along with him?
He began with the Committee and called a special meeting. When they were all seated he addressed them. ‘We have to change in order to survive,’ he said ‘ and change begins at the top.’
He then explained that instead of just being a committee – a ‘talking shop’- they were now to become a proper board of directors with executive powers. The committee room would from that time on be known as the board room.
‘My title will be chairman and chief executive, and I shall be in charge of our strategy and marketing. Ed, I would like you to be our finance director and look after all the money we are going to make.’ Ed simply nodded in reply.
‘Harriet, our animal friends are our most important resources. I would like you to be our Animal Resources Director.’ She blushed with pleasure.
He then turned to Harry. ‘We need someone with an air of authority in charge of production. Will you take on the job of manufacturing director?’ A vigorous tail wagging was sufficient by way of reply. This left Jack the goat, Graham the gander and John the horse. Peter, who was a very neat and tidy goat, slotted neatly into the post of company secretary. Graham, who was always patrolling the farm boundary looking for intruders was pleased to be appointed director of security.
This left John, who was looking increasingly anxious as the jobs were handed out. Gordon turned to him and said ‘In view of the very high standing you have in our community, John, I would like you to accept the position of deputy chairman and director responsible for agricultural production.’ John nodded his head several times and a tear appeared in the corner of his eye.
Gordon then stood up and drew himself to his full height on his hind legs. ‘I want now to tell you my vision of our common future. We will no longer work together simply to keep ourselves fed, well housed and warm in the winter. These objectives, worthy as they are, are not enough to inspire us. Without inspiration and belief in a cause work is mere drudgery.
We need a higher cause and more challenging goals – and what could be more challenging, more inspiring, than working to free animals beyond the boundaries of our farm from cruelty and oppression?
Since I have been able to use the Internet I have discovered that, hard as it is to believe, in many places animals are being treated with far greater cruelty than that meted out to our ancestors by Mr. Jones – and we have all been told by our parents and grandparents how bad that was.’
They all nodded.
‘I have discovered, for example, that there are what are called factory farms where thousands of pigs are crammed into pens so narrow that they cannot turn around. The noise level is unbearable and there is not enough air to breathe freely. Hundreds, even thousands of pigs die each year just from overcrowding. This is only one example of how humans are treating animals. ‘ There were gasps of horror and expressions of sympathy from the others.
‘But not all humans are like Mr Jones or the factory farmers. There are many humans who like to think they are kind to animals, yet unthinkingly they eat our flesh. There are also many who are called vegetarians or vegans who never touch meat and these are our true friends.
‘However, the good news is that there are even more powerful allies of animals - organisations of humans that work to save animals from cruelty. One is so important that it is called the Royal Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals. Another, where I already have made some friends on our behalf, is called Animal Assistance We must do all we can help these organisations in their work to protect our animal friends in the outside world and this will be our great and inspiring purpose.’‘
He sat down, his cheeks glowing with the intensity of his feelings. ‘Bravo!’ cried Ed. ‘Bravo! Bravo! ‘ echoed the other animals.
‘I was sure you would all agree that this should be our new purpose’ Gordon continued, ‘so I have drafted what in the business world is called a ‘mission statement’ and I would value your comments. What the mission statement does is to explain our aims simply and clearly so that all the animals, even the very simple ones like the hens or the sheep can understand them and be guided by them. ‘ He then read out the statement.

The mission of Animal Firm is to produce organic farm products of the highest quality and to market them via the Internet. The resulting profits will be used:
1. To Improve the living and working conditions of the working animals of Animal Firm.
2. To contribute to the improvement of the quality of life of animals wherever they are.

‘This is probably a bit too complicated for most of the animals, so I have boiled it down to one sentence;’

‘A business that works for animals - everywhere.’

‘Now, do you have any comments, any questions?’
There was a stunned silence. Then, unusually, John spoke first. ‘That make’s horse sense’ he said. ‘I think I can say that I have always pulled my weight on the farm. I now feel that I want to try even harder in the future.’
‘I think it is wonderful, simply wonderful,’ said Harriet
Harry’s tail was wagging vigorously. He was so excited he simply barked his enthusiasm. Similarly, Graham went ‘Honk, Honk!’

‘What about you, Ed? You are very quiet.’

‘Well, Gordon, I think it is truly inspiring. But I think you may find that some of the animals are going to find it difficult. It is such a big change – and not all animals are as far-sighted as you are. The sheep are easily led I know, but the donkey is as stubborn as a mule and the hens will kick up a great fuss. As for the cows, how are you going to rouse them out of their normal state of apathy?‘
‘You are quite right, Ed, and do you know what we must do, therefore?’ Gordon answered his own question. ‘We have to win their hearts and minds. But that will do for today. At our next meeting I will explain what that means and how I intend to set about it.’

* * * * * * * * * * *

All Comments on this post :

Did you know there already is a book (in Dutch) called "Animal Firm"? - Ellis (02/04/2012)