The American Medical Association calls them “potentially dangerous to the health and welfare of Americans.” Were they talking about mad cows? Nope. That’s how the AMA describes the recommendations of the animal-rights zealots at the Physicians Committee for Responsible Medicine (PCRM). Yesterday the PETA-funded group told selected media that it has written the 50 biggest U.S. school districts, asking them to “replace beef and other meaty items” with vegetarian cafeteria meals as a response to the recent news about mad cow disease.

Of course, PCRM president Neal Barnard suggested ten years ago — even before mad cow disease claimed a single human life — that “to give a child animal products is a form of child abuse.” No wonder the AMA has also called PCRM a “fringe organization” that uses “unethical tactics” and is “interested in perverting medical science.”

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention estimates that Americans’ real risk of mad-cow infection is on the order of 1 in 10 billion — about the same as winning the lottery and being struck by lightning on the same day. Harvard University experts note that the risk of Americans contracting mad cow disease is “as close to zero as you can get.”

So officials who wouldn’t dream of taking dietary advice from PETA should similarly reject PCRM’s scare tactics. Beef is perfectly safe for children to eat — but they shouldn’t be forced to swallow animal-rights propaganda.