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Not ‘that’ Animal Farm, but -t-h-e- Animal Farm

    Friday, January 26, 2018 -- (Long Beach, CA) -- Long Beach, California is not a huge city, or a small one.

    With about 500,000 residents, it is home to the longest beach in southern California, is bordered by two larger regional rivers, and is the second-largest urban city in Los Angeles County.

    Since people love their pets everywhere, Long Beach residents celebrate “Doggie Day in America” everyday, whether on a beach-front doggie romping zone, the many doggie parks, or neighborhood sidewalks on 50 square miles of land.

    Sometimes people don’t use a leash, which they should, because if their doggie bolts onto the street, a car will always win.

    When a dog or cat vanishes, the city’s facility handling strays is a large one, and serves many of the smaller neighboring cities.

    Government costs money, and very few communities have a “no-kill” ordinance, so if one’s pet is gone, you must hunt the animal shelter vigorously, as there is only so many days a beloved pet would survive.

    Some cities -- very few -- adopt “no-kill” rules, such as the neighboring small town of Seal Beach. Many residents there volunteer every week, because no creature is taken down, no matter how long the animal stays at the small facility.

    While some cities are taking up the question of a “no-kill” ordinance, Seal Beach is a rare town. Is it just about the money? What if a facility serves more than one city? Is it not the widespread view that our species dominates all others?

    Most likely, it’s all of those things. If one cares about whether a dog is walked with a leash, perhaps deeper meaning speaks loudly, and things fundamentally change in a new spirit of humanity.

    An animal facility can be something other than a mere temporary site where animals await death.

    That would cost money, and even a “no-kill” rule would leave thousands of residents unconcerned, uninterested, and unchanged.

    Unless everything changes.

    We know that “Animal Farm” was a book, but perhaps that phrase can hold deeper meaning if it is truly about animals, and not simply a mask of how humans behave to one another.

    Use that broadly recognized phrase in light spirit, and “Animal Farm” could indeed become a theme that changes the human spirit, first in one city, which becomes a model for everywhere else.

    “Animal Farm” would lift the commitment of pet owners, and many would see a leash as just part of caring about animals.

    If done beautifully, the “Animal Farm” at Any Town USA could save animals everywhere.

    The fundamental change that builds the barn in the “Animal Farm” is a “no-kill” rule, and that will cost money. Leadership is an exercise of reaching out to say, “Well, yes, this will cost money, but if we want to save animals, then it is a small price.”

    Some voters would say “no,” because it’s a free country and everyone has the right to their views.

    But if a leash is only a symbol, and the cost is modest, then dog owners would understand that animals matter, including using a leash and gathering droppings. If others care enough to put a fraction of a penny when spending a dollar to save animals, then someone walking their doggie should care about other peoples’ shoes.

    If a facility does not take lives, the numbers will quickly grow. If the purpose is to uplift the lives of the animals, then cages can be replaced by well-designed open spaces, where neutered animals spend their days. Perhaps, after a short assessment of which animals are peaceful, it would be obvious which could live in a farm-like setting.

    Rather then narrow cages that imprison living creatures, their days would be spent in open area, with trees, and protected housing, living a rural life. If done beautifully, families would visit far more frequently then to simply pick a survivor, or hunt for their lost loved one.

    “Animal Farm” could become a pleasure zone, where recreation is to be with happy, peaceful souls. And like any farm, sure a space is not simply about animals walking freely. Meals on wide tables often are followed with a barn dance, when neighbors gather together. An orchard -- like FDR’s ‘Victory Garden’ -- gives shade and beautiful fruit.

    If done with amazing vigor, the “Animal Farm” would go beyond cats and dogs, and connect families to creators most do not see.

    If there is a “no-kill” rule, then space could be rented to raise chickens and cows and sheep, under basic rules over how animals are treated on city land. While government should not tell farmers how to conduct their business, still, a city’s “Animal Farm” could rent space that connect people and treat animals well, while also promoting humane farming.

    While sheep give wool, and cows yield milk and cheese, and chickens lay eggs, “Animal Farm” could change the human spirit for everyone. A soul lightly embraces an animal when one knows that on that site no create is met by the butcher.

    It is unthinkable that any broad view can win community support simply by putting words onto the ballot. Leadership is measured by uniting, not dividing. If people agree, then all things can change. If “no-kill” rule leads to a mind-bending “Animal Farm,” then that city will become an Oasis within the desert.

    An orchard and cafe and recreation zone could make the “Animal Farm” far larger then just a place where lost pets hope for your urgent embrace.

    Kids in school can walk to the “Animal Farm” and volunteer to milk a cow or make a wool scarf. All about their own life becomes different, even though they still like in the second-largest city of a highly-urban county.

    If neighbors gather together because cherries or apricots can be harvested, then we can thank Franklin Delano Roosevelt, who told Americans that we can feed our people in the cities with “Victory Gardens.”

    Perhaps this urban city shall be where students join the 4H and Future Farmers of America.

    And while residents rent space to raise animals, it falls to them to decide when and why those creatures go. But so long as an animal wakes and sleeps in the “Animal Farm,” their lives are certain.

    Perhaps souls previously committed to domination over all other species will see their own role as shepherd rather then butcher.

    Anyone who puts forward a big idea can feel pride that it is debated and acted upon. Even more heartwarming is when children lead a different view of humanity, such as the connections with animals.

    If we journey together on a different path, and our children become leaders, then this model project shall be remember not as “that” Animal Farm, but as “-t-h-e-” Animal Farm.

-- Billy Orton

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Billy Orton is a novelist and historian living in Long Beach, California.