Upon the deck there stood a tall wooden case, and above the edge of the case rose the heads of two Giraffes. They were…on board the boat…and going…to a traveling menagerie. The Giraffes turned their delicate heads from the one side to the other, as if they were surprised…. The world had suddenly shrunk, changed and closed round them. They could not know or imagine the degradation to which they were sailing. For they were proud and innocent creatures, gentle amblers of the great plains; they had not the least knowledge of captivity, cold, stench, smoke, and mange, nor of the terrible boredom in a world in which nothing is ever happening. Crowds…will be coming in from the wind and sleet of the streets to gaze on the Giraffes, and to realize man’s superiority over the dumb world.

    In the long years before them, will the Giraffes sometimes dream of their lost country? Where are they now, where have they gone to, the grass and the thorn trees, the rivers and water-holes and the blue mountains? The high sweet air over the plains has lifted and withdrawn…. As to us, we shall have to find something badly transgressing against us, before we can in decency ask the Giraffes to forgive us our transgression against them.


    Isak Dinesen, Out of Africa (New York: Vintage Books, 1989).


    Thanks: The Value of Life by Stephen R. Kellert.

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