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. Jim Chassiller’s Aug. 25 letter calling for baby boomers to stop eating meat and dairy foods (“Bad news for the obese”) is a great example.

The same exact letter (word-for-word) was published by at least 21 other U.S. newspapers during the last week of August. Each time, a different person “signed” it. Coincidence?

This scam is a deceptive program of the Farm Animal Reform Movement, a radical animal rights group that preaches strict vegetarianism. The group uses 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.