As we begin a new year, I am heartened to see many Americans adopting a more loving, compassionate attitude toward each other – despite our differences – as well as toward our beautiful planet. It is my hope for 2014 that this opening of our hearts will extend beyond our own kind to all sentient beings.

Spiritual leaders such as Archbishop Desmond Tutu, the Dalai Lama and Pope Francis have urged us to make kindness our rule in our behavior toward animals, who are powerless and voiceless without our help.

Many people are boycotting factory-farmed meat, and for good reason: Do you really want to support an industry that creates innocent living beings only to subject them to a life of horrific suffering and a terrible death, all the while causing more environmental havoc than the transportation industry?

More than 150 billion animals are slaughtered every year, and each one of these animals is an individual who experiences pain and has feelings, just like your beloved dog or cat.

In this time of setting good intentions, ask yourself this: If you could live a happy and healthy life without harming another being, would you?

Mary A. Wheeler

Scarborough