Remember when animal rights groups declared war on processed meats? When the Physicians Committee for Responsible Medicine (PCRM) used Tony Snow’s death as an occasion to talk about America’s “pepperoni addiction,” and its phony Cancer Project spin-off aired a wildly unpopular TV commercial using children to rebrand hot dogs as the new cancer stick? Guess what: According to a major study in this month’s American Journal of Clinical Nutrition (AJCN), vegetarians aren’t avoiding colorectal cancer by passing on the pastrami. In fact, study participants who abstained from meat had significantly higher colon cancer rates than participants who ate like the rest of us.

Since its release in 2007, pushy vegans have had a field day with the World Cancer Research Fund (WCRF) report emphasizing a link between colorectal cancer and the consumption of red and processed meat. As we’ve argued before, however, the WCRF report omitted the largest-ever study on meat and colon cancer diagnoses, a Harvard University study that found no link at all between the two. Now the UK researchers who published the new AJCN study have taken the dispute one step further: Not only is the anti-meat movement dead wrong in telling people that eating red and processed meats cause cancer, but it appears to have gotten the relationship in reverse.

Based on the 63,550 adults studied in the UK throughout the 1990s, vegetarians showed a 39 percent higher rate of colorectal cancer compared with meat eaters in the new study.

These new numbers may be surprising, but the bottom line shouldn’t be: Bologna sandwiches are no more a recipe for cancer than a broccolini and tofu salad. And as more Americans express concerns about their food safety system, there’s no room in the public discourse for groups who use phony food scares to influence our choices at dinnertime.