Defiling the American hot dog

This is to suggest that protesters at Coney Island’s annual July 4 hotdog-eating contest missed the point. Instead of objecting to the event’s promotion of violence against animals by showcasing their consumption, the five demonstrators detained by police should have been railing against the revolting public spectacle of people trying to outgorge each other against the clock.

The so-called winner of the (literally) nauseating pigout devoured 72 dogs (with buns) in 10 minutes and somehow was celebrated in newspaper and television reports which cast him as participating in a distinctive Independence Day American tradition.

In fact, the whole operation deserved bad reviews on multiple levels, beginning with its juxtaposition to the contrary epidemics of childhood obesity and world hunger. The former scourge has more than tripled since the 1970s, with one in five schoolchildren now dangerously overweight, while one in nine people worldwide suffer from chronic undernourishment. Those statistics ought to take the fun out of the Coney Island show—if it had any entertainment value in the first place.

Hotdogs indeed are an appealing and appropriate July 4 U.S. custom; it was estimated that our 324 million fellow citizens accounted for 150 million dogs eaten. But that averages out, roughly, to a reasonable two franks per person, and it likely would spoil regular folks’ holiday barbeques to see the leading hog on Coney Island wolf down the share of more than 33 people. In 10 minutes.

That put him, and his fellow “competitors,” somewhere between Dante’s third and fourth circles of hell—gluttony and greed. Not to mention their appalling wastefulness. Some people eat to live and others live to eat, but those partaking in the hotdog race were just eating to eat, fulfilling neither the primary (fuel) nor secondary (enjoyment) functions of food.

Alarmingly, the yearly Coney Island binge is just a single stop on a circuit of eating contests conducted by an organization calling itself Major League Eating, which claims it provides “dramatic audience entertainment and offer[s] an unparalleled platform for media exposure.” MLE calls its eaters “an increasingly celebrated breed of athlete.”

These “athletes” challenge each other at speed-eating cake, corn-on-the-cob, butter, chicken wings, glazed doughnuts, pie. And even if no animals are hurt in some productions, it’s enough—more than enough—to make a person sick.

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