In George Orwell’s Animal Farm, the animals who work on Manor Farm want to achieve better and more equitable treatment than they had received under the management of the farm’s original owners, Mr. and Mrs. Jones. As a result, they rebel and take over the farm. Before he dies, Old Major tells them:
Remove Man from the scene, and the root cause of hunger and overwork is abolished forever…
Man sets them [the animals] to work, he gives back to them the bare minimum that will prevent them from starving, and the rest he keeps for himself. Our labour tills the soil, our dung fertilises it, and yet there is not one of us that owns more than his bare skin.
The thought of being able to govern themselves inspires the animals to revolt. Following the rebellion, animals on the farm, which is now known as Animal Farm, continue to work hard:
However, back on Animal Farm, ALL that year the animals worked like slaves. But they were happy in their work; they grudged no effort or sacrifice, well aware that everything that they did was for the benefit of themselves and those of their kind who would come after them, and not for a pack of idle, thieving human beings.
The irony is that the animals on Animal Farm are working like slaves even in the early days post-rebellion, and they are no better off than they were before. In fact, in many ways, they are worse off, largely because of the avarice of the animals that are in charge. It seems that Old Major’s words, “Remove Man from the scene, and the root cause of hunger and overwork is abolished forever,” prove inaccurate. Many of the animals are corrupt.
Boxer is a good example of this corruption. Old Major tells him:
You, Boxer, the very day that those great muscles of yours lose their power, Jones will sell you to the knacker, who will cut your throat and boil you down for the foxhounds.
Boxer is one of the most fervent in his belief of animals governing themselves. Yet, when he gets too old to work, the new master of the farm (i.e., the animals in charge) sends Boxer to the same fate as the human masters would have. The animals see Boxer being put into a cart and shout, "Boxer! Get out! Get out quickly! They're taking you to your death!...Boxer was never seen again."
The author then writes:
It had come to his [Squealer's] knowledge...that a foolish and wicked rumour had been circulated...Some of the animals had noticed that the van which took Boxer away was marked "Horse Slaughterer," and had actually jumped to the conclusion that Boxer was being sent to the knacker's.
Squealer tells the animals that "the van had previously been the property of the knacker, and had been bought by the veterinary surgeon, who had not yet painted the old name out."
While the animals may accept this insipid explanation, the reader understands exactly what is going on. Napoleon and the other masters have sold Boxer to the "knacker" to wring as much money out of him as possible. At the end of the novel, the corruption is evident, as the visual differences between the corrupt animals and humans become blurred.
Twelve voices were shouting in anger, and they were all alike. No question, now, what had happened to the faces of the pigs. The creatures outside looked from pig to man, and from man to pig, and from pig to man again; but already it was impossible to say which was which.