YORK, Pa. – It’s mere days before Groundhog Day, and PETA is calling upon the Punxsutawney Groundhog Club to stop using a live groundhog and begin using a robot to predict the weather instead.
In a letter released by People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals, the animal-rights group recommends releasing Punxsutawney Phil to a “reputable sanctuary” and investing in an animatronic rodent that would predict the weather using artificial intelligence.
But despite PETA’s best efforts, it looks like the Groundhog Club will not soon be ditching their traditions. In a sarcastic statement on their Facebook page, Groundhog Club co-handler John Griffiths said they actually already have a robot in their midst.
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“We found some old bicycle parts, inwards out of an old Pac-Man game, and this is what we came up,” Griffiths said pointing to club president Bill Deeley.
That man in a top hat then began dancing like a robot.
The Groundhog Club, established in 1887, has long supported their town’s quirky tradition that comes around every Feb. 2 when people gather around a stage, sing, dance, drink – be merry – while waiting for Phil to pop out of his hole and declare if we’re in for six more weeks of winter or an early spring.
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The other days of the year, Phil resides in a habitat-regulated zoo connected to Punxsutawney Memorial Library.
“When Phil is dragged out of his hole and held up to flashing lights and crowds, he has no idea what’s happening,” PETA said. “Being relegated to a library ‘habitat’ for the other days of the year doesn’t allow him or the other groundhogs there to dig, burrow, or forage.”
But in an interview with the Punxsutawney Spirit, Deeley insisted that the groundhog lives quite lavishly. In the winter, Phil sleeps in a warm environment, and in the summertime, he lives in an air-conditioned environment.
The groundhog is also required by law, by the United States Department of Agriculture, to get a physical check-up every year – something that isn’t even required of humans living in the United States.
“As I’ve said in the past,” Deely told the news outlet, “Phil lives better than the average child in Western Pennsylvania.”
Follow Sam Ruland on Twitter: @sam_ruland