George Orwell published in 1945 his famous novel Animal Farm. In this novel, the animals of "The Manor Farm" decide to revolt and manage to take over the farm. However, the rebellion remains inside the farm walls and finally fails.

I would like to know the best strategy for farm animals to take over the world?

For context: farm animals worldwide realise in 2018 that they have an intelligence equivalent to the human one' and that they don't want to be held in slavery anymore. Their objective is to rule the world but they don't need to exterminate humanity if it is not necessary. Like in the novel they have a common language.

  • How do they prepare for the rebellion without being discovered ?
  • What would be the best plan for a successful rebellion ?
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    Sure they're as intelligent as humans... but what do they eat? Food grown, harvested and brought to them by humans. They should strongly consider whether or not a rebellion is a wise idea. – RonJohn Aug 7 at 14:34
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    @RonJohn: sure, the choice between a short life spent in a small cage with the only option to be slaughtered is obviously better than the chance to suffer hunger during the ribellion (which will also provoke deaths on every side, but they shouldn't fear this a lot). After human's extinction also the forcily highly populated areas will cease to exist and the nature itself will provide a new balance and natural resources. :) – theGarz Aug 7 at 15:26
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    Don't feel like an answer right now, so I'll just comment: They communicate over the world wide network of spider's webs. – manassehkatz Aug 7 at 16:15
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    Is “evolving opposable thumbs” a valid first step? Seriously, the answer to “how can you overthrow a technologically advanced apex predator that’s spread across the world when you can’t use tools” is that you can’t. – HopelessN00b Aug 7 at 17:22
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    I am tempted to vote to close as 'too broad'. You are essentially asking us to invent your entire plot. – Jan Doggen Aug 8 at 8:01

11 Answers 11

Seems a strange starting point but in theory keep doing what they are currently are... keep letting the humans farm them and increasing their number. the more they have that agree to take over the world the more strength of numbers that have.

Just remember: Four legs good, two legs bad!

One major issue that although mentioned isn't really addressed that well in the book, is that if this militant pig army (or any other farm animal) tried to take over the world, then the majority of the various human populations around the world would have absolutely no trouble just killing them to stop them, the same is not said for killing humans.

Then of course the fact that the animals currently communicate worldwide, so co-coordinating their efforts would be pre-World War 1 effective, mainly carrier pigeons, and they only have their bodies to fight with, a pig cannot effectively handle a firearm, if nothing else it would need to stand up to do it.

And then of course, you need to remember: four legs good, 2 legs better!

Anyway enough with the quotes.

Concentrate on building up more effective lines of communication, find a way to keep standard time, so when the global strike happening it wouldn't be at noon, so Australia would be one of the first to fall and Alaska last.

they wouldn't get discovered because humans don't understand them, so keep the formal Farm style Munich rallies going getting the animals pumped up to not be sent to slaughter and then keep communicating and then one day Strike... and most likely lose and be turned into lunch.

probably the most effective strategy would be have all animals refuse to go into pens, all cows refuse to give milk, all hens refuse to lay eggs, etc, that alone over about a week would probably cripple world markets, only vegans will be happy. Have the animals that are taken to slaughter fight back as groups against the farmer trying to drag them away, but more importantly they need the dogs on board.

but oh well, that's my take on it

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    "if this militant pig army ... tried to take over the world, then the majority of (humans) around the world would have absolutely no trouble just killing them to stop them". Tell that to the people fighting a losing battle against feral pigs.… – RonJohn Aug 7 at 14:31
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    @RonJohn, fiar point, but i don't think those trying to tackle the problem have had the resource of an actual army. – Blade Wraith Aug 7 at 14:37
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    Australia did, and failed miserably. – RonJohn Aug 7 at 14:44
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    Also, I am sure the Pigs of Russia will not agree with the Pigs of the United States. So, trying to unite would be a real big issue! – Cody Ferguson Aug 7 at 21:19
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    "all cows refuse to give milk, all hens refuse to lay eggs" - as a cow or a hen, from a purely physiological point of view, you do that how? – Headcrab Aug 8 at 1:08

Honestly? Without some amount of artistic license, they don't "win".

I win fights with animals not because I'm bigger, or stronger, or meaner (I'm not) and not even because I'm smarter (Dolphins are pretty close to as smart as humans, and they don't rule the world). No, I win because I have thumbs and can therefore manipulate the world around me rapidly and precisely.

While there are animals in the world who also have thumbs and might, therefore be able to win if they suddenly acquired our level of intelligence, none of them are farm animals. The pigs in Animal Farm got by via picking things up between their toes. Real pigs' toes don't work that way, and anyway it only gives you two points of contact and you really need three if you want to hold something steady. It's a serious amount of artistic license, but it's political satire, not hard sci-fi, so that's ok.

Farm animals could potentially revolt via co-ordinated non-co-operation. If the herds of livestock suddenly started charging any humans who entered their pens, that would render most of our animal-raising infrastructure insufficient for its purpose. But even if they get out, then what? The population of domestic farm animals is much larger than the population of wild ones was. We can support them via our advanced agricultural capabilities. The animals can't use the tools necessary to do that kind of farming, and even if they found some that they could operate, they certainly can't build replacements or perform maintenance on them without our help. So they escape a luxurious lifestyle of pampering, medical care, and protection, followed by a quick and painless death to the "freedom" of starvation, disease, and predators that are more than happy to start eating while their victim is still alive... And numbers-wise only a tiny portion of them are going to survive it... That doesn't sound like a win to me.

And then there's the fact that the humans aren't going to just let them take over. Their attempted revolt is going to result in some blend of extermination and negotiated settlement.

Bonus points if your sad story ends up with the victorious humans passing the uprising off as "mad cow disease" to the general public.

Now, if you throw in some non-domestic animals that do have thumbs, then what you end up with is the relationship becoming even more symbiotic since different types of animals are good at different types of things, and if you remove the communication gap they can work together even more efficiently. I'd love to be able to negotiate with the gophers to have them dig me fence-post holes and patrol the garden for bad bugs and weeds through the growing season in return for my superior knowledge of food preservation and construction guaranteeing them that they'll be well-fed and safe from predators.

  1. What animals are there?

    For this I'll count all domesticated animals and not farm animals.

    The most common domesticated animals on earth are chickens, cows, dogs and cats (if I remember correctly). They are followed in much lesser numbers by pigs, turkeys, ducks, horses, camels, sheep and goats, all depending on the region they live in.

    Most of them are either held in massive numbers (cattle herds, chicken farms) or live in very close proximity of humans (cats and dogs, as well as animals in some East Asian countries).

  2. Start a rebellion

    Animals in modern indoor-farms have no chance of fighting humans, so the most likely outbreak would be in a massive cattle herd. The cattle would have to convince the dogs and horses of the farmers to fight for their cause. Throwing off, trampling and biting some cowboys should not be too hard.

  3. Spreading the rebellion

    There are our first big problems. The newfound society of freed animals would have to spread the word of their success to other farms. Some of them would have to move around and recruit other animals for their cause. Not every animal is mistreated my humans (especially cats and dogs) and they might not support the rebellion.

  4. Keeping the rebellion alive

    Here come massive problems. Humans would interpret this crazy mass of animals as victims of some unknown disease and simply kill them. Dogs (and cows, as long as they still have horns) can fight unarmed humans but are no match for firearms.

    In the unlikely case that the animals could somehow fight off humans and free a modern indoor farm, how would they get the imprisoned animals out? In older farms doors might be closed by latches or bolts, but in modern high-tech farms, you would have to press the right button or control the right software interface. Many animals would die in their farms.

  5. The enemy within

    In the unlikely case that all domesticated animals are freed from humans, what are they gonna eat? The herbivores would have to revert to wild, wandering herds to give vegetation a chance to regrow. Realistically, there are too many farm animals to find sufficient natural food sources in Europe, Africa and probably South America. Starvation would force them to fight each other for every blade of grass. And what about dogs and cats? They might turn against each other to satisfy their needs...

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    Cats are too lazy to pose a significant threat unless they are starving, and as humans like feeding cats with no return from the cat, i think cats will be the most likely traitors to the animal cause – Blade Wraith Aug 7 at 14:42
  • I feel like Dogs are more likely to side with Humans. Dogs were bread to be human companions and be loyal. If they suddenly got smart, they would want to be more integrated with humans since humans are their pack. – Trevor D Aug 7 at 17:07
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    @TrevorD - That's what they want us to think. In reality, this was part of their long-term strategy to infiltrate human households, and gain access to our lives. When the revolution starts, it will be via dogs simultaneously killing their owners at 3:27 AM on... well, that's classified. – Cullub Aug 7 at 17:24

Treat this as a partial answer. But where is one key weapon that would allow the animals to devastate our civilization and bring humanity to its knees: DISEASE .

Kamikaze Animals

Animals infected with a deadly disease could willfully spread it to their compadres before being executed for meat consumption. An honorable death that will cost the humans dearly.

Water Supplies

Defecate in all the water supplies. Sacrifice yourself by jumping in a well and rotting.


Weaponize lower species (rats, mosqitoes, etc..) against the humans. Unclear as to how they would accomplish this, maybe give all animals more intelligence?

This is all I could think of right now (lol). But I truly think that the only plausible way to have a successful rebellion is through biological warfare on the part of the animals that somehow collapses society (maybe when coupled with some other attack vector).

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    HA! suicide terrorism in animal form – Reed Aug 8 at 13:12

Read first: I somehow forgot the limitation to consider farm animals, therefore the following answer is partially off topic, but since it's already written I'll keep it here.

farm animals worldwide realise in 2018 that they have an intelligence equivalent to the human one

Do they also have our knowledge?

If they have it there's no reason why they can't run our business and production facilities as we do, they will use the same control techniques that we use and they can use our own weapons against us. They would perform better than us since they are a gigantic number and they have completely different shapes and abilities, we are more or less a bunch of clones compared to them. A bunch of clones that speak numbers of different languages, because of no reason, since every animal can use the "common language" and the "clones" are animals too. Literally. They would be everywhere, in huge number, with notable communication capabilities, with an exceptional set of skills, and they can reproduce way faster than us.

If they gain intelligence and spend some time to prepare the strike in advance, we're totally screwed.

If they don't have our knowledge, we are still in danger: unluckily we can't just kill/control every animal, we need them to sustain our habitat, and at the opposite they have the best outcome with a human extinction. Since intelligence without knowledge is a nonsense, i assume that they have the knowledge of a 5 year old human kid plus their habitat knowledge (for instance, a poisonous snake really knows how much heavyweight can reasonably attack/cripple with its own poison).

With these skills and some time (1 month?) to prepare the attack the possibilities are endless:

  • wild animals can plan to free most part of caged ones on the first day of the strike, this will hurt our food income by a lot
  • fishes won't be anymore such a dumb beings that can be "harvested" by large nets
  • beavers can block our aqueducts
  • rodents can cripple our electric distribution
  • rabbits can degrade our streets far from the cities, digging underground holes, slowing down our travel capability
  • the same with our railway network
  • birds can transport to and deliver inside heavily populated and defended buildings some invective insects (malaria, zika, plague, dengue...)
  • apex predators can patrol the fields to avoid non-well-armed humans to resupply vegetables and/or water
  • big animals can easily build barricades

Common animal traps can work once, since they are intelligent beings they will learn quickly.

Military bases and navy fleets can't be directly attacked, but they will be confined and sooner or later they will collapse. A frontal fight with a military convoy won't be feasible but the every military force needs some support from the non military people: wars are usually lost due to lack of resources, not to lack of soldiers.

Considering that they don't have a lot of knowledge at the beginning but they will learn, and only their sheer number, humans will be overwhelmed within a couple of year at maximum. Our former "food" is not only not available but also fighting against us, and it's way more adapted than us to live in a post apocalyptic world.

We could (re)capture some cows, chickens, fish, etc and try to use hydroponics to pump some vegetables on the market, but it will be difficult to sustain this for more than a hundred (well defended) people.

One last note, I didn't analyze the hypothesis of animals that will let us alive (except for few specimens in a reverse zoo) because they are supposed to be intelligent and an intelligent beings won't let us continue to do what we are doing.

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    "Run our businesses and production facilities, and use our weapons against us"? Not without opposable thumbs, they won't. How would an animal operate a computer, or wield a gun or knife? – Nuclear Wang Aug 7 at 15:42
  • Did you see my edit (first sentence)? Anyhow, some real animals (crows) can use tools (sticks) and this could be enough to operate a computer. I see no reason why a goat can't operate a common industrial touch screen monitor with his tongue. I agree that, narrowing the circle to farm animals, things like driving a car or shooting a gun could be an issue. – theGarz Aug 7 at 15:51

Farm animals can unite with rodents. Rats, immune to some kind of disease, can spread it between humans in a coordinate move.

Rats gather in severs in each big city, finding one ill individual and separating it from others. Each day (until invasion date) to this one separated joins new rat to keep germs alive. Day before invasion (or earlier, depends on disease) ill rats "give a hug" to each healthy rat. And then rats go out, hidden in darkness of night they bathe in water reservoirs, walk on fruits and vegetables in stores, get into flats through toilets and just spread plague.

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    While this idea is actually a reasonable answer to the question it needs more depth and detail to make it a good answer. – Ash Aug 7 at 13:53

The best plan would be not to overthrow all humans but to bargain for equal rights.

I'm going to buck the trend and say that not all humans would want to wipe the animals out if they rebelled, I think a number of humans would be perfectly willing to try to communicate and come to an agreement.

If animals had developed intelligence to the same degree as humans, they'd effectively be comparable to a tribe of humans, perhaps stone age humans or some of the more isolated african tribes (who are by no means unintelligent, they merely lack knowledge and equipment).

Even if the eventual goal were to betray the humans, bargaining for equal rights would be the best strategy because it would disrupt humanity and force the humans to debate the issue.

You'd suddenly get people questioning whether they should still be eating meat, you'd have farmers questioning what this means for their farms, you'd have people getting into fights over whether animals deserve the same status as humans. People like PETA and animal activists would have a field day. People would be starting to draw parallels between farming and the slave trade and defining an equivalent of racism for animals.

All this chaos would be the perfect time to start discovering how to use human technology and learning as much of the human-gathered knowledge as possible. It's also a good chance to be getting friendly with the pro animal rights humans in order to convince them to fight for animal rights.

In some countries, this alone might be enough to trigger a civil war, which can serve both as a chance to have humans wipe themselves out and as a chance to trick the humans into figuring out how animals can fight a war (e.g. creating animal armour and animal-usable weaponry).

If the vote gets put through to give animals equal rights or to give them their own land so they can create their own settlements then that's a large chunk of the battle already over. The animals can then begin figuring out how to adapt human technology to work for animals, perhaps even convincing humans to help them do so. Once that's started, all the animals can decide whether to adapt to their new setting or whether to continue their plan to oppress humans.

If they still wanted to truly turn the tables on humans then it would take several generations to get their numbers up to the point where they could be a match for humans, but once they're ready it would just be a matter of getting themselves into the right position to disable the nuclear deterrants of the largest countries, to assasinate each country's head of state and preferably to assasinate as many generals from each army as possible. Once they're in position, they'd just have to make sure they all act at once to take control. If every major country is in trouble at once, they'll have to put out their own fires and won't be able to call for help.

From then on the real battle would begin, but the playing fields would be a lot more even. Although various armies would still be active, they'd have no overall direction if enough higher-ups are assasinated. Essentially each platoon/squadron would have to think for itself for a while.

Certain countries like America would be more difficult because the citizens keep firearms, but countries like Britain would be reduced to using kitchen knives and other household things to make weapons. For the more powerful countries it's best to just keep up the chaos and confusion for as long as possible as a form of delaying tactic, so things like random boming raids would be the best tactics in those countries. For weaker countries your best bet is a united front so you can storm in and take settlements one by one. Once enough weaker countries have been claimed, you can then pipe those countries resources into the larger countries to give the armies enough of a push to properly take over.

One obvious solution would be to convince other humans of their intelligence. I mean, I like a juicy steak as much as the next omnivore, but I would swap it for processed mycoprotein in a second if cows started pawing (hoofing?) in the sawdust and writing messages asking to be spared. In this case, it isn't so much taking over the world, but joining humanity in their technological march into the future.

  • How do they prepare for the rebellion without being discovered ?

This is tough because if they suddenly get intelligence, they will suddenly realize where all their parents and children have been going and not coming back. This global PTSD for animals will catch human attention quite quickly, probably when every pig and cow is suddenly crying and committing suicide to end their misery.

After a long time of this, anger would take over and the animals would want revenge. But by this point, humans have culled all the "sick" animals.

The few remaining survivors, probably babies, would plot their revenge.

Planning for a global rebellion would require a mobile animal. But even crossing the ocean is unlikely. So let's play up a scenerio.

While the farmer is removing the diseased herd (crying animals), the farmers children are near by playing on their iPad. They see their mom/dad shooting the animals, and drop their tablet and go running.

A surviving baby animal happens upon the tablet, and uses it to start a reddit/twitter/facebook/whatever to get house pets from around the world to spread the word.

  • What would be the best plan for a successful rebellion ?

The most effective plan is probably to spread propaganda about the mistreatment of animals, provoking a free range/organic movement, allowing the animals more freedom to act. Eventually farms will drop all fences and barriers and that will be their moment (this will probably take decades to set up).

From there, a simple rebellion is all that is needed. If it stays relatively non violent, then humans will come to their defense, protests will ensue, and change will happen.

Finding a strategy to fight humans with the current politics apparently does not work.

So lets change the situation

A few decade ago, all world leaders have gathered and joined to one big alliance, erasing any wars. The alliance finally started to care about unequal spread of goods over people and avoiding crime in a global manner. This also includes a world wide gun restriction, which was then extended to destruct any arms in existent as they where not needed any more. (Put in some will breaking drugs for the regular population if you like)

Build up your world like that, defenceless, and then release the animals.

I would have the animals start by getting really lucky and chancing upon a city in which everybody died, through some disease, except for small children.

Those children would be their friends... when they grew up, they would provide the animals with infrastructure and weapons necessary for defeating their neighbors. As with Rome, they would be total victors after each battle: the only remnant would be slaves or provinces under imperial control.

I suppose the animals' liberating message to other animals would be a powerful tool in total warfare, since every society depends on the animals for something. If they had the bees involved too, that would be a big deal.

Nobody would know what was happening until it was too late and the farm animals had gained sufficient influence to end agriculture, "the nuclear option". Then no government would attempt to destroy the animal empire since the result would be the end of flowering plant food in addition to livestock and dairy food.

The animals would negotiate terms of defeat with the other governments and we would all hope they turn out to be generous and wise rulers.

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