PETA wants Groundhog Day to go animal-free, suggests unexpected replacement for Punxsutawney Phil

Groundhog Day is coming up soon on February 2, and as part of the longstanding tradition, towns across the US will find out if a groundhog “sees his shadow,” indicating either an early spring or six more weeks of winter.

While many see Groundhog Day as a harmless novelty, there are animal rights advocates who are against the holiday, arguing that groundhogs shouldn’t be used as part of the holiday stunt.

Now, PETA is once again calling out Groundhog Day — and offering an unusual alternative.

PETA recently wrote an open letter to Tom Dunkel, president of the Punxsutawney Groundhog Club, who organizes the Groundhog Day event in Punxsutawney, Pennsylvania.

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The Punxsutawney ceremony is the most famous and most attended in the country; it was featured prominently in the classic 1993 comedy Groundhog Day. The star prognosticator is a groundhog called “Punxsutawney Phil.”

While Phil has made his weather prediction annually since 1886, PETA says it’s time to end Groundhog Day as we know it and replace it with an animal-free alternative.

The animal welfare organization has for years been against Groundhog Day, arguing that groundhogs are shy, sensitive animals who do not react well to handling or to large crowds, so the events cause undue stress.

Additionally, celebrity groundhogs like Punxsutawney Phil are kept on display year-round, which PETA says interferes with their natural instincts to hibernate.

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Now, PETA is pitching an unusual alternative: replacing the groundhog with a coin.

The organization is offering the Punxsutawney Groundhog Club a giant gold coin to use instead of Phil, because the groundhog’s “weather predictions are no more reliable than a coin toss.” (Despite the club’s colorful claims that Phil is never wrong, studies have found that his weather predictions are only accurate about 40% of the time.)

PETA wants the coin to replace Phil, and for the groundhog to be retired from the ceremony and moved to a sanctuary.

“Groundhogs can’t make heads or tails of the weather forecast and shouldn’t be jostled around by large members of a different species and thrust in front of noisy crowds for a photo op,” said PETA President Ingrid Newkirk in the news release. “PETA is urging The Punxsutawney Groundhog Club to send Phil to a reputable sanctuary that will give him the care he needs and not to treat him as a wildlife prop.”

PUNXSUTAWNEY, PA – FEBRUARY 02: Punxsutawney Phil is held up by his handler for the crowd to see during the ceremonies for Groundhog day on February 2, 2018 in Punxsutawney, Pennsylvania. Phil predicted six more weeks of winter after seeing his shadow. Groundhog Day is a popular tradition in the United States and Canada where people await the sunrise and the groundhog’s exit from his winter den. If Punxsutawney Phil sees his shadow he regards it as an omen of six more weeks of bad weather and returns to his den. Early spring arrives if he does not see his shadow, causing Phil to remain above ground. (Photo by Brett Carlsen/Getty Images)

They even pitched a new groundhog-free name for the holiday, ““Weather There’ll Be More Winter Day.”

While PETA — known for their headline-grabbing campaigns and stunts — has had some successes in pushing for animal-free alternatives (such as in the fashion industry) It is very unlikely that the town of Punxsutawney will accept PETA’s terms and change their most famous, over-a-century-old tradition. But that hasn’t stopped them from trying.

In past years, PETA has offered to send a human alternative for Phil, to plant a persimmon tree (whose seeds are sometimes believed to predict weather), and even to replace Phil with an animatronic, AI-powered groundhog.

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For their part, Punxsutawney officials say that Phil is well-cared for, enjoys a healthy diet of kale, bananas, and carrots, and shows no apparent signs of distress.

“If he’s so fearful of the cameras, if he’s so fearful of us and of the crowds, why doesn’t he make an attempt to run away?” former club president Bill Deeley told the Washington Post, saying Phil’s burrow was inspected every year by the U.S. Department of Agriculture.

There have been some incidents at Groundhog Day events across the US, from groundhogs biting officials to NYC Mayor Bill de Blasio dropping a groundhog that later died.

What do you think of this idea? Is Groundhog Day a harmless tradition or should we do away with using real “weather predicting” groundhogs?

Please share this tory with your thoughts!