PETA wants Punxsutawney Phil replaced by a robot

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Punx Phil

(AP Photo/Keith Srakocic)

PUNXSUTAWNEY, Pa.-- The People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals (PETA) wants Pennsylvania's most famous groundhog to retire and for the Punxsutawney Groundhog Club to and replace the animal with a robot.

PETA sent a letter to the organizers Groundhog Club this week.  The letter calls for moving Punxsutawney Phil to an animal sanctuary and for the Groundhogs Day organizers to use an animatronic groundhog that uses technology to more accurately predict the weather.

"Gentle, vulnerable groundhogs are not barometers," says PETA Executive Vice President Tracy Reiman. "PETA is offering the club a win-win situation: Breathe life into a tired tradition and finally do right by a long-suffering animal."

Part of PETA’s motto is “that animals are not ours to use for entertainment,” the group says.

Groundhogs are prey animals who naturally avoid humans and like to dig, burrow, forage for food and hibernate – natural behavior, the group says Phil is not able to do while being held in captivity at the local library.

PETA's letter to Punxsutawney Groundhog Club President Bill Deeley follows:

Dear Mr. Deeley,
Times change. Traditions evolve. It's long overdue for Phil to be retired.
As a prey species, groundhogs actively avoid humans. Being in close proximity to the public causes these animals great stress. When Phil is dragged out of his hole and held up to flashing lights and crowds, he has no idea what's happening. Being relegated to a library "habitat" for the other days of the year doesn't allow him or the other groundhog there to dig, burrow, or forage. It's no kind of life for these animals.
Using technologically advanced electromechanical devices such as animatronics instead of live animals is more popular than ever. We even have the technology to create an animatronic groundhog with artificial intelligence (AI) that could actually predict the weather. An AI Phil would renew interest in Punxsutawney, generating a great deal of buzz, much like Sony's robot dog "aibo," which walks, plays, misbehaves, and responds to commands. By creating an AI Phil, you could keep Punxsutawney at the center of Groundhog Day but in a much more progressive way. Talk about taking your town's annual tradition in a fresh and innovative direction!
Today's young people are born into a world of terabytes, and to them, watching a nocturnal rodent being pulled from a fake hole isn't even worthy of a text message. This is a generation whose members book rides on their smart phones and will never walk into a bank to deposit a check. Ignoring the nation's fast-changing demographics might well prove the end of Groundhog Day.
We'd be happy to make recommendations for a sanctuary that would welcome Phil and the other Punxsutawney groundhog. Instead of working at cross-purposes, let's collaborate to create a sunny future. I look forward to hearing from you.
Yours truly,
Ingrid Newkirk, President

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