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.

Deana Cantwell’s Aug. 31 letter calling for baby boomers to stop eating meat and dairy foods (“Living and learning?”) 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. They included The Boston Globe, St. Petersburg Times, Santa Fe New Mexican, Seattle Post-Intelligencer and Vancouver Province.

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.