Early in the 20th century, the theme of being kind to animals became a prominent, recurring part of both the Sunday School and the Primary schedules. “Humane Sunday” was observed at least once a year. The magazines carried whole sections of stories about dogs who saved families from house fires, old cart horses who brought unconscious masters safely home, and the loyalty of animals of all kinds to children who were kind to them. Sometimes the teachings given to children were really aimed at their parents — a set of photographs showing the humane and the inhumane ways to hold a check rein on a horse, for instance, no doubt caused a few children to correct their fathers when the wrong method was used. I wouldn’t be surprised if Spencer W. Kimball’s memories of the song “Don’t Kill the Little Birdies” had its roots in some youthful church lesson on the humane treatment of animals.
This page from the Juvenile Instructor of 1917 illustrates one of the ways in which Mormon children were taught to notice and consider the lives of the animals around them. Do you suppose this resulted in shrieks of horror from a scandalized child in some chapel in the weeks after its publication?