Even a protester in a Darth Vader mask couldn’t keep Joey Chestnut from winning the Nathan’s Hot Dog Eating Contest for the 15th time.
During the July 4 competition at Coney Island in New York, Chestnut was downing his 18th hot dog when protesters took to the stage. One protester — who was wearing a Darth Vader mask and holding an “Expose Smithfield Deathstar” sign — bumped into the competitive eater, NBC Sports reported. Chestnut proceeded to wrap his arm around the protester’s neck and pull him to the ground.
Security removed the protester and Chestnut kept on eating.
He consumed a total of 63 hotdogs — 15.5 hot dogs ahead of Geoffrey Esper, who finished in second place, according to NBC Sports.
What is the ‘Smithfield Deathstar’?
Direct Action Everywhere, an animal activist group, shared on Twitter that the act was in protest of Smithfield Foods, Nathan’s pork supplier, NBC Sports reported. In the post, the group called Smithfield Foods “a company exposed for animal cruelty, worker abuse & pollution.”
Three protesters at the Nathan’s Hot Dog Eating Contest were taken into custody, according to TMZ.
ARRESTED: Activists who disrupted #NathansHotDogEatingContest have been taken into police custody. Their protest was against Nathan’s pork supplier, Smithfield Foods, a company exposed for animal cruelty, worker abuse, & pollution. Updates will be posted as the story develops. pic.twitter.com/hfhk6cq9Gh— Direct Action Everywhere (@DxEverywhere) July 4, 2022
The “Smithfield Deathstar” sign was specifically referencing “Operation Deathstar” in 2017, when activists from the California-based Direction Action Everywhere sneaked onto a Smithfield farm in Utah’s Beaver County to document the treatment of the pigs, according to RighttoRrescue.com.
“The film shows ... pregnant sows gnawing on the bars of the narrow stalls they live in until they give birth; and piglets clambering over and nibbling dead siblings,” The New York Times reported.
But a spokesperson for Smithfield at the time said the video appeared “to be highly edited and even staged,” according to The New York Times. “An attempt to leverage a new technology to manufacture an animal care issue where one does not exist.”
The trial for Wayne Hsiung and Paul Darwin Picklesimer takes place in September, according to RighttoRescue.com. The pair face a few charges, including burglary of a building and theft, according to charging documents sent to the Deseret News.
Smithfield Foods closing in Beaver County, Utah
Smithfield Foods, headquartered in Virginia, announced last month that it is closing the majority of its operation in Beaver County, sparking concern from residents about the number of job losses this will create.
“My family was able to return to Beaver County 15 years ago because I was able to be employed at Smithfield Foods, and so I deeply empathize with those fellow employees, their families, contractors, contract growers, their families, all of the affected businesses, our partners at the school district,” Beaver Mayor Matt Robinson said in a statement, per KSL.
The Beaver County Commission has declared a state of economic emergency.
In the same announcement, Smithfield Foods also said it is ending “all harvest and processing operations” in Vernon, California, by early 2023 and “reducing its sow herd in its Western region,” according to a news release.
“Smithfield is taking these steps due to the escalating cost of doing business in California,” the company said in the release.
Correction: An earlier version of this story cited outdated charges for Hsiung and Picklesimer. This story has been updated to include the more recent charges.