If you didn’t care what happened to me
And I didn’t care for you
We would zig zag our way through the boredom and pain
Occasionally glancing up through the rain
Wondering which of the buggers to blame
And watching for pigs on the wing
Pink Floyd’s Animals is a progressive rock concept album released in 1977. The album serves as a critique of socio-political issues that England faced throughout the late 1970’s that persisted into the 1980’s, and pursues this harsh criticism through a metaphoric hierarchy of walking, talking animals (akin to George Orwell’s Animal Farm) consisting of sheep, dogs, and pigs. While this highly experimental (and admittedly fantastical) album seems to have been very much so an artifact of a lost rebellious, anti-Thatcherite mentality, Animals still holds a surprising amount of relevance in our modern society.
The first step of the three-part hierarchy we should analyze is the lowest: the sheep. The sheep are especially relevant because, according to Animals, the sheep are symbolic of us. They are the working-class civilians who are at the mercy of their overlords. Many sheep are thoughtless and merely accept their mistreatment, and those who dare to rebel are far too small in numbers to succeed. The sheep are “harmlessly passing their time in the grassland away”, and are “only dimly aware of a certain unease in the air”, unknowing that those above them merely want to use them.
The second step of the hierarchy is the dogs. To the sheep, the most dangerous animal is the almighty dog. They are fierce and militant and exist only to rule over the sheep. The dogs “have to be trusted by the people they lie to” for the sole purpose that “when they turn their backs on you you’ll get the chance to put the knife in”. The dogs are seemingly valiant, but beneath their flesh lies a pure lust for power. The dogs represent (not surprisingly), politicians. However, we know that our hierarchy consists of three parts, which leaves one species above all.
The third and final step of the hierarchy is one that the sheep are unaware of: the pigs. The pigs are in control of all capital and resources, and therefore have significant power over the previous two species. The pigs are described as being old, fat, and physically powerless. However, they manipulate the dogs to keep the sheep under control. The pigs attempt to present themselves as “big men”, and “house proud town mice” (this second verse being a direct reference to Mary Whitehouse, a British pro-censorship advocate), but are called out by the narrator as merely being “charades”. The pigs represent CEOs of major corporations; they are seemingly uninvolved with the political conflicts between the sheep and the dogs (the civilians and the politicians), but in reality, they are the root of the problem, being in-control of both species due to their extensive wealth and influence.
At the conclusion of Animals, the sheep rise up against the dogs, defeating them. However, they realize that it is impossible to defeat the pigs alone. The root of their problem stems from a lack of cooperation with each other and a lack of understanding of what the real issue is; the sheep believe that the dogs are their only predator, and the dogs are completely unaware that they are not in charge and have been “dragged down by the stone”. Together, they stand a chance against the pigs and can bring about equality and an end to corruption. Together, with acceptance, understanding, and passion, we can bring about a new age of equality, free from the oppressive hierarchy that binds us. Instead of sheep, dogs, and pigs, maybe someday we’ll just be people.
You know that I care what happens to you
And I know that you care for me too
So I don’t feel alone
On the way to the stone
Now that I have found somewhere safe
To bury my bone
And any fool knows a dog needs a home
A shelter from pigs on the wing