What causes the animals to finally rebel against Mr. Jones and his four farmhands in Animal Farm?

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The animals revolt when Jones and the farmhands do not feed them.

This is the story of a group of animals who decide that they have taken enough abuse.  Mr. Jonas and his men often think about themselves first, and the animals last.  This happens again on Midsummer’s eve, when Jones and the men leave on Saturday and do not come back until Sunday.  They do not seem to remember the animals.

Mr. Jones went into Willingdon and got so drunk at the Red Lion that he did not come back till midday on Sunday. The men had milked the cows in the early morning and then had gone out rabbiting, without bothering to feed the animals. (Ch. 2)

When cows do not get milked, they experience great discomfort.  Also, the animals have not been fed.  They decide to break into the storage shed and feed themselves. This wakes Jones and the men up, and they go after the animals with whips, and the animals defend themselves

The next moment he and his four men were in the store-shed with whips in their hands, lashing out in all directions. This was more than the hungry animals could bear. With one accord, though nothing of the kind had been planned beforehand, they flung themselves upon their tormentors. (Ch. 2)

The rebellion at Animal Farm was not planned.  The animals had listened to Old Major tell them that they were being taken advantage of by men, and they had heard the tenets of Animalism espoused as from a pulpit.  It was as if Old Major planted a seed.  The animals finally decided to do something, but the first thing they did was feed themselves.  The animals did not attack the humans until they were attacked first.

When Jones and his men flee, the animals seem to have taken the farm by default.  They feel free and they are thrilled.  Of course, it is not this easy.  The men will come back.  They cannot allow the animals to keep the farm for good.  Still, the first step has been taken.

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