[Vancouver Sun - opinion]
With the rise of utilitarianism in the 18th century, the ability to
feel pain became central to moral calculus, guiding how we treat animals
Odd idioms, aren't they? After all, most dogs we know live relatively pampered lives, yet these idioms suggest the opposite. However, we're now aware that many dogs we don't know -- such as the 100 Outdoor Adventures sled dogs that were killed when they ceased to be of use to their owner -- live lives that do justice to the idioms.
Indeed, until relatively recently, dogs were not pets but draft animals, tools to be used as their owners saw fit and disposed of when they no longer served any useful purpose. In other words, the treatment accorded the Outdoor Adventures dogs doesn't differ significantly from the way most dogs were treated throughout history.
What does differ is our reaction to such cruel treatment, and not just of dogs, but of animals more generally. In fact, widespread concern for the welfare of animals, not to mention animal rights, is a uniquely modern phenomenon, having existed for less than a century.