According to Major from George Orwell's Animal Farm, what is the source of the animals "misery and slavery?"

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amarang9 eNotes educator| Certified Educator

The first chapter is based around Major's speech. First, he discusses how terrible the animals' lives are. Then he encourages them to take control of their lives and attempts to inspire a rebellion. In talking about their current living conditions, Major says: 

Let us face it: our lives are miserable, laborious, and short. We are born, we are given just so much food as will keep the breath in our bodies, and those of us who are capable of it are forced to work to the last atom of our strength; and the very instant that our usefulness has come to an end we are slaughtered with hideous cruelty. 

Then, Major eliminates possible causes of their plight. They do not suffer because of poor soil, climate, or anything negative about the land. He concludes by saying that Man is the cause of their misery. Man steals their food, only feeds them enough to survive, and treats the animals like slaves. Major asks why their lives are miserable and then answers his own question: 

Because nearly the whole of the produce of our labour is stolen from us by human beings. There, comrades, is the answer to all our problems. It is summed up in a single word — Man. Man is the only real enemy we have. Remove Man from the scene and the root cause of hunger and overwork is abolished for ever. 

Major adds that the animals do all of the work and Man (Farmer Jones) reaps all of the rewards. Chickens lay eggs and Man takes them all. The cows give milk and Man takes it all. Some pigs are killed before they have lived full lives and the horses are killed when they no longer can work on the farm. Farmer Jones (Man) enslaves the animals. Mankind, therefore, is the root cause of the animals' suffering. In the political allegory referring to the Russian Revolution, Farmer Jones (Mankind) symbolizes Capitalism and the Animal Revolution symbolizes the Communist revolution.