In this world of tight deadlines and instant communications, it has become easy to slip an agenda-driven form letter into a newspaper opinion page. Ben Sammerton’s Aug. 26 letter calling for baby boomers to stop eating meat and dairy foods (“Final word on nutrition? Fat chance”) is a great example.

The same exact letter (word-for-word) was published by at least 13 other US newspapers during the last week of August. Each time, a different person “signed” it. Coincidence?

This scam is a deceptive program of radical animal rights groups that preach strict vegetarianism. The groups use a computerized faxing system to send thousands of duplicate letters to newspapers every year. Activists are notified by e-mail that their names are being submitted as fake “authors.”

The current national dialogue about obesity has provided the animal-rights fringe with an opportunity to propagandize about the so-called evils of everything from strip steaks to milk shakes.

But if these zealots have to resort to mass-produced phony letters to make their point, they don’t deserve to be taken seriously.