“He is not a meteorologist and deserves better,” the animal rights organization writes in a group letter
Published January 24, 2024 8:48PM (EST)
Punxsutawney Phil saw his shadow on Wednesday morning 6 more weeks of winter during Groundhog Day celebration at the Gobbler’s Knob in Punxsutawney, Pennsylvania, United States on February 2, 2023. (Fatih Aktas/Anadolu Agency via Getty Images)
Ahead of Groundhog Day, the People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals (PETA) have drafted a group letter to The Punxsutawney Groundhog Club’s president, Tom Dunkel, suggesting a change to their standard tradition.
Since 1887, locals and those who travel to Punxsutawney, Pennsylvania for the occasion have gathered in suspense to see if the groundhog Punxsutawney Phil will emerge from his temporary home on Gobbler’s Knob to see his shadow — signaling six more weeks of winter — or, if not, an early spring is on its way. But PETA wants to retire Phil, proposing that a flip of a giant gold coin be used to make the time honored prediction instead.
“For more than a century, The Punxsutawney Groundhog Club has exploited a groundhog on February 2—when they’d naturally be in hibernation—and pretended that they’re giving a weather forecast,” PETA writes in a post to their website. “Observe Groundhog Day in a way that doesn’t involve abusing animals. Tell Punxsutawney to send Phil to a reputable sanctuary.”
When not predicting the weather, the groundhog used for the event is kept in a manmade zoo that is climate controlled and light regulated. According to the Groundhog Club’s website, this zoo is connected with Barclay Square, the town park, and the Punxsutawney Memorial Library.
PETA has tried for years to convince the town to do away with the use of a live animal for their event. In 2020, they encouraged replacing Phil with an animatronic groundhog, and in 2022, they suggested officials predict the weather with persimmon seeds.