The "Expose Smithfield's Deathstar" Protester at the 2022 Nathan's Hot Dog Contest Was There for This Reason

Chris Barilla - Author

Jul. 5 2022, Published 12:08 p.m. ET

When you think of professional food eaters, Joey Chesnut is likely the first name to come to mind. The undisputed champion of American hot dog eating, Joey's pro eating career (and stomach lining) seem to know no bounds, constantly pushing the envelope of what's considered possible for one person to consume year after year.

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Things were no different when Joey took the stage for the 2022 Nathan's Hot Dog Eating Contest, but a certain protester tried their very hardest to sabotage Joey's performance this time around. Brandishing a sign that read "Expose Smithfield's Deathstar," the protester took center stage for a few moments and broadcasted their message to the world. With that being said, what exactly does "Expose Smithfield's Deathstar" mean? Let's unpack all of the known details.

Joey Chesnut
Source: Getty Images
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What do we know about the "Smithfield's Deathstar" protester?

If you watched the 2022 Nathan's Hot Dog Eating Contest, odds are that you were a little surprised when a protester appeared on screen. Nudging Joey to the side while he was mid-eating a hot dog, the individual held up a black sign with white text that read, "Expose Smithfield's Deathstar." The protester also donned a Darth Vader mask, a clear reference to the "Deathstar" comment on their sign. So, why did they do it?

Although it hasn't been confirmed as of the time of writing, the general consensus seems to be that the protester was probably making a reference to Smithfield Foods. Smithfield Foods is based in Smithfield, Va. and is known for producing pork and processing other foods, per The Sporting News. However, the company has dealt with some pretty intense allegations in the past, including animal cruelty.

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According to a report from PETA, "Smithfield Foods, based in Smithfield, Virginia, kills almost 30 million pigs every year—more than any other company in the world. The way that Smithfield treats pigs, from birth to slaughter, could result in felony cruelty-to-animals charges if pigs were covered by the same laws that are designed to protect dogs and cats from abuse."

Joey Chesnut
Source: Getty Images
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Those points are doubled down on in another report by VOX. Back in 2018, Smithfield was accused of using the cruel technique of gestation crates on pigs. For those who aren't aware, gestation crates are used by large farms to maximize the amount of pigs that can be contained in one space, resulting in nearly unlivable conditions for the animals. When this information came out, Smithfield issued a statement about making their meat more humane.

Joey Chesnut put the "Expose Smithfield's Deathstar" protester in a chokehold on stage.

Fans of the Nathan's Hot Dog Eating Contest know that Joey is more serious than anyone about his hot dogs, and his actions during the 2022 festivities prove that more than ever. Right as the "Expose Smithfield's Deathstar" protester nudged Joey aside and brandished his sign, Joey quickly reacted and put the individual into a chokehold before throwing him to his rear and continuing eating.

Despite the minor hiccup that the protester caused in Joey's eating flow, the formidable food athlete still managed to take home the winning title yet again. He consumed 63 hot dogs total with the second-place winner trailing him by a whopping 23 hot dogs. If there's one thing that's clear from that quick reaction, it's that a few seconds of protesting was far from enough to throw the world's hot dog eating champion off of his game.

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