This weekend is Christmas in July for barbeque junkies everywhere. It’s time for braised short ribs, Jamaican jerk chicken, and more homemade hamburgers and charred hot dogs than most of us will see the rest of the year. It’s hard to imagine why anyone would opt for tofu.

Eating vegetables is apparently the new recycling. It’s “recession eating.” It’s the latest Hollywood diet fad. If only the anti-meat missionaries would stop there. However, this July 4 organized party-poopers aren’t just after your cold brews, Roman candles and star-spangled cupcakes. They’re after your meat, too.

Have you heard that cheeseburgers are destroying the ozone layer? Or that barbequed beer brats can make you a cancer patient? And those charred black bits on your chicken might kill you?

At least that’s according to the newsletter of the original “food police,” the Center for Science in the Public Interest. Just in time for the grilling season, the Center for Science in the Public Interest devoted its entire June issue to meat. Seemingly no ailment escaped the cover, from diabetes to “early death.” The group even managed to work in a recession theme. “The Real Cost of Red Meat” is seared across the front, next to a package of ground beef priced at $16.26.

Most health expert will tell you that this weekend’s indulgences won’t cost you more than an extra trip to the gym. But CSPI president Michael Jacobson and other vegetarian busybodies are fond of reminding us that anti-steak views are gaining ground.

In March, a National Cancer Institute study made national headlines with the claim of a link between red and processed meat consumption and early mortality, via cancer and heart disease.

Institute researchers performed some impressive statistical gymnastics to reach their central conclusion, which even they called “modest.” Those same logical contortions also revealed a supposed link between premature death and marriage.

Ultimately, the study merely confirmed what we already knew: Health recommendations that separate diet from lifestyle are usually pure guesswork. Its predecessor, a 2007 World Cancer Research Fund report, didn’t fare much better, omitting history’s single largest investigation into links between meat and cancer. (There weren’t any.)

Activist claims that the recipe for cancer begins with grilled chicken have even less factual backing. Last year, California’s attorney general rejected an animal-rights group’s request to mandate warning labels on grilled chicken. Lo and behold, he wrote, grilling meat “actually has the net effect of making the food safer to eat, i.e., killing bacteria.”

America’s founding fathers affirmed a host of basic liberties in a Declaration of Independence 233 years ago. Since when have meat-eaters forfeited the freedom to enjoy a barbeque without fearmongering and bogus statistics?

George Washington was a serious carnivore. (Martha smoked meats at Mount Vernon herself.) Even Ben Franklin and John Adams, who dabbled occasionally in meatless eating, weren’t known for being led around by the nose.

You shouldn’t be either.

Enjoy that kielbasa. Savor your sirloin. If you’d rather go for the veggie burger, that’s OK, too – as long as it’s your choice, not some idle finger- wagger’s. Your food freedom is important. And the pursuit of happiness is a lot harder on an empty stomach.