BY THE VILLAGE SUN | Coney Island was the place to be on the Fourth of July to enjoy the sun, surf and the ritual scarfing down of frankfurters at the annual Nathan’s hot dog-eating contest.
Things got a little chippy, though, during the gorge-fest when an animal-rights protester in a black Darth Vader mask hopped up onstage and elbowed reigning champ Joey Chestnut. The competitive eater promptly clamped the activist in a chokehold, yet still managed to win the mustard-yellow belt for a record 15th time.
The protester’s beef was with Smithfield Food’s Circle Four Farms, the country’s largest pig farm. The group Direct Action Everywhere charges that Smithfield — of which Nathan’s is a licensed brand — compromises worker safety, public health and animal welfare. Nathan’s hot dogs are 100 percent beef.
Chestnut later regretted the move, saying he was triggered by the black mask, plus had been revved up anticipating the contest and just lost it — though, to his credit, he didn’t lose his lunch.
He said he chose not to shove the protester away and instead grab him in a headlock because he feared he would otherwise drop the hot dogs he was holding.