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Why Groundhog Day is No Holiday for Animals

Written by PETA | January 26, 2016

Groundhog Day is no holiday for the animals forced to “perform” in front of large crowds, exposed to flash photography and loud noise.


Groundhogs are naturally shy, sensitive prey animals who react poorly when handled in front of raucous crowds, as evidenced by last year’s incident when a groundhog named Jimmy bit a Wisconsin mayor’s ear at the 67th annual Sun Prairie Groundhog Day celebration

Punxsutawney Phil, the groundhog used for a Groundhog Day celebration in Pennsylvania every year, is forced to be on display year round at the local library and is denied the opportunity to prepare for and enter yearly hibernation.

Marmot between flowers©

Not only do events at which groundhogs are handled pose a risk to the animals and their handlers, such handling could also trigger other stress-induced disorders in animals who aren’t outwardly harmed.

Groundhog 4FR©

What You Can Do

Please don’t visit zoos, marine parks, or any other place that keeps animals in captivity. Read PETA’s stance on animals in entertainment, and spread the word that animals aren’t actors, spectacles to imprison and gawk at, or circus clowns.

Commenting is closed.
  • Mark Powell says:

    Wouldn’t it be possible to allow the tradition of Phil without keeping him caged year round on public display. Give the little guy a better home but let him keep his job.

  • Kathy says:

    Hello Matthew….he doesn’t live in a 2X4 cell. Do your homework before you open your mouth dude. You will at least sound educated that way.

  • Matthew says:

    Retire him! No debate. He doesn’t need to live in a 2ft x 4ft cell anymore!

  • Kim says:

    I also have to point out all animals are running out of room to be free unless the people population is more under control all animal will be either pets or ornaments. We should as a human race promote a license to have babies If your willing to do this? Then you have the right to fight for freeing any animal. If there was more room on the earth this wouldnt be a problem. When you come down to it WE ARE THE PROBLEM!!!!! Too bad there isnt another planet where just the animals can live then you will all be happy. I can’t help to say this Animals eat other animals RIGHT? Then what does that make us? ALIENS? Our eyes are in the front and our front teeth are sharp? Or is it aliens vs. predator?

  • Liam Gresh says:

    I have always been on the side of the animals. My whole life I’ve taken in strays that were dropped off in the area of PA where I grew up and I continue to do so today but I have to say that although I usually agree with PETA on issues I do not back this one. Punxsutawney Phil has been a revered mascot of this town for a century. He is loved and taken care of there are animals who need PETA’s assistance Phil is not one of them. Leave Phil alone and stop this charade that would effect a whole town’s economy.

  • Kim says:

    I had to leave a comment I had a Phil for a pet Codo Bear. In Texas these ground hogs are sucked up into a vacuum or others us them for shooting practice in Texas they are nothing but rats I think Phil has it good He’s spoiled and loved. I would understand if he was abused but he’s not The whole town loves him. I know you all can’t say you have never had a pet? Cat Dog? If so Why? If you stick to your strict beliefs. They your pets should be free?!!! I support peta when fighting for animal abuse. But Some of the thing that come up are just way out there? I also hate to point out that some of these animals need to be Domesticated to Preserve their existence. Otherwise we will never see them again. There are more hunters than caretakers.

  • Ken A says:

    Is Pux Phil a groundhog sentient enough to know that he is in an artificial environment? Suppose a groundhog is as smart as a house cat. My house cats are technically prisoners but they purr all day and have no worms ticks rabies or malnutrition. They do not care about the great freezing beyond. They are happy to live with nutritionally complete meals and belly rubs.

  • Laura says:

    What about Wiarton Willie? Why not help him? Wiarton is my home town and I hate the whole festival and did even before getting involved in animal rights. There is so much seeediness around the thing. I highly doubt that the “original” Wiarton Willie died at 22 years old. The town was ALWAYS taking in any albino groundhog that was found. I know they had at least 6 of them at one time because a farmer found a whole litter of albinos. If one dies they just bring out one of the spares. Then one year they ran out and had to admit that Willie was dead.

  • Ross Lawrence says:

    Hey instead of freaking out about a groundhog that gets special treatment why doesn’t Peta go after hunting? I live in PA…not far from Phils home and I’m so tired of seeing hunters all year around in PA you can kill anything pretty much all year which is sickening trooping trespassing through my woods. Everywhere I drive there’s someone with an orange hunting hat or vest during the fall and winter. I even have to see deer strapped to the back of cars and trucks on the highway. They can even hunt on Public grounds in this State. Soooo…let’s focus on really saving animals huh? Stop hunting!!

  • Michelle says:

    I just saw a picture of a guy with a top hat in Punxsutawney holding up a ground hog with one hand. I felt for the ground hog how frightened it must be and how unnecessary it was. So then I did a PETA search and found this glad there is some awareness of this. I don’t think we will come to a robotic ground hog in my lifetime but I surely they could just quietly observe and not touch!

  • Charlie says:

    Everyone who’s arguing against letting Phil out into the wild is succumbing to a straw man fallacy. If you read the letter they sent check the link in the article it clearly states that they are offering assistance in finding a SANCTUARY for Phil. Learn to read people! Second saying “there are more important things to worry about” is a classic derail. Feminists get it all the time and it’s used as an excuse to let injustice continue. Would you like it if every time you complained about something losing your wallet dropping a cell phone etc. someone sprang out and yelled “Oh yeah? Well some people are STARVING so QUIT COMPLAINING!!!!” People are allowed to point out problems in society even if they’re not the biggest problem! The point PETA is trying to make as far as I can tell is that we should not use animals against their will FOR OUR OWN AMUSEMENT. That’s the issue here our society’s bizarre idea that because we CAN do whatever we want to animals that we SHOULD if we think it will make us money or make us happy. It’s a selfish backward mindset and the sooner it goes away the better off we humans will be!

  • Raven says:

    Phil the groundhog has always been a tradition and hopefully will continue to be the “real”deal enough said if peta is so worried about him being “abused” then it’s time to protest wildlife sanctuarys zoos and never mind that these institutions are working for the benefit of the animals but none the less are still in confined spaces and according to their logic are not roaming free therefore not suscumming to poachers roadkill and death period. because this is their fate. peta should do some backchecking before going off on a tizzy.

  • vegancoin says:

    animalvoice putting a groundhound in a cage and making him perform in a ridiculous eventidiotic spectacle is is not respect nor is it honor. it is the usual mans hopelessly foolish and anthropocentric attempt at “dominion” over other species. this is one “tradition” that needs to be put out to pasture.

  • Jill Lewis says:

    I am a Punxsutawney native and also a fan of Peta! You are stepping in our town’s boundries! We have always have had “Phil” the live groundhog as long as I lived here and he gets treated better than some humans do as well. I think you need to keep your fur issues and animal cruelty issues apart from Punxsutawney PA and Groundhog’s day! No need for a Mechanical Groundhog!

  • seth says:

    Yes I do know that groundhog day is probably one of the stupidest events in Pennsylvania. I know first hand cause I live in Pittsburgh. But give me a break that groundhog is the most pampered groundhog in the world. Its just a groundhog. I could see if it was a dog or any other domesticated pet. Give it a break

  • animal_voice says:

    I am a monthly supporter of PETA and I plan to continue my support and love for the organization. The good they do far outweights a little silliness. I am sternly opposed to tradition for traditions sake when the tradition is clearly violent and cruel rodeos bull fighting circus zoos roadside exhibits etc. But when a tradition loves cares for and brings respect and honor to an animal I will support it. Of course I recognize an animal’s inherent right to be free nonetheless it is situations like this that clearly show an animal worthy of adoration respect and protection. When my dogs killed two groundhogs I was heart brokenI now scan my yard before letting the dogs out. When I see groundhogs as road kill I tear up. When I hear of situations where an animal is protected loved and adored I’m thrilled. As me and my local activists demonstrate for protection for all animals we are careful not to bring dishonor to our cause because it is not helpful to the animals. Sorry PETA I can’t support you on this one.

  • faith says:

    This whole discussion really is silly. There are children in our country that don’t get treated as well as Phil does! We are arguing about one day a year in this groundhog’s life? It’s not torture people! Although I don’t personally see the importance of this holiday i do see the tradition and unless you can come up with some proof that they are beating Phil to make spring come earlier I really think there are better things to waste our time and money on.

  • Dylan Fox says:

    You guys are all stupid if you think this is a serious blog. Replacing him with a robot? If you actually believed that then you’re stupid. PETA is trying to have a little fun.

  • phil says:


  • Dianne says:

    I too think Peta is getting carried away. This tradition has gone on for over 100 years. If they have a robot to replace Phil then the town of Punxatawney you might as well say would be devastated. No one will travel to see a robot groundhog. Put your time and efforts into truly meaningful causes.

  • Erin says:

    I understand where y’all are coming from in a sense. But if they release him he’s not gonna know what to do and end up dying bc of it. He has been so pamperedfor so long I’m sure he doesn’t remember what’s it like to be a real groundhog again. And if they take him away from his job then he will really not be taken care of anymore. Which to me would be what we were trying to avoid in the first place.

  • Bri says:

    I think it is a good idea to retire Phil. Yeah sure he is living a great life but that life was not naturally meant to be for him. It would be like keeping a bear in your house to keep as a pet when it should be in the wild. Phil is not a domesticated animal. He is a groundhog. Living with humans is not natural to a wild animal. It doesn’t matter if they have lived with humans starting with their generation for years. Unless groundhogs are bred to be domesticated And that should not happen as that is the cause of so many homeless pets. they should not be treated like pets. They are meant to be in the wild no matter how fascinating they may be. The wild is their home.

  • marc says:

    youre denying the animals nature. groundhog’s basic instincts set it for living underground and hibernating for winter. This guy even though he is VERY WELL taken care of cannot do that. He’s fed has good living conditions etc etc but he still is unable to do the things nature tells him he needs to burrow live in colonies mate etc etc. so yeah its not like hes being mistreated or beaten or anything like that its just denying him the ability to live a normal natural groundhog life ONLY for the sake of our entertainment. Some say its the same as having a pet. Which is kinda true but dogs and cats are different. We’ve domesticated dogs and cats and your normal pets like that for hundreds of years to the point that we now HAVE to provide them with living conditions because they no longer have much natural instinct of their own through the conditioning. ground hogs are not this kind of animal. They have them at zoos and wildlife rehabilitation centers but they are given as close to natural habitat conditions as possible not alone in a cage. Its things like this that people dont think about before they just go “what? we take care of it peta is just being CRAZY!” now the fact that they wanna replace it with an electric one like chuckecheese IS kinda crazy but the town would have a fit telling them to just get rid of the ‘big event’ that brings in tons of money altogether. i saw someone stated that freeing them at this point into the wild would be dangerous because they arent used to the wild… but its kind of a catch 22 we would never have GOTTEN to this point had we not done this to the animals for our own entertainment to begin with. either way i dont think its crazy to at least just give the animal things its very nature calls for. You wanna keep te groundhog fine but dont isolate it in a cage give it some land let it dig give it some company!

  • Charles Higley says:

    You must be kidding. Animatronic dinosaurs are used because duh dinosaurs are extinct! If we had real ones we would use them whenever possible. Dolphins and penguins are high maintenance and expensive to house so we use substitutes. A groundhog is very low maintenance he is protected from predators and disease. What is your problem?

  • Inferi says:

    Peggy I don’t disagree with you but remember this is a group against cruelty to animals. There are other groups that are against abortion or other matters you are for and against. It gets annoying when people think that each one of these groups must care about all the issues out there. No they don’t. There are groups for each issue. But no I don’t support PETA at all and never will. It was funny seeing this on my local news even the news anchors laughed when they reported this.

  • peggy says:

    Some are more concerned with the treatment of animals then the fact that countless babies are killed every year by abortion. Where is the outrage for that? I am an animal lover and despise cruelty to animals but it does not appear that this animal is being mistreated.

  • Alyssa says:

    The current Phil would not be able to survive if released into the wild at this point but I do not believe another should be obtained after this one’s life has ended. I mean the fact that this is a tradition does not make it right… traditions change people change towns change. The existence of this tradition teaches young children that animals exist for the amusement of humans. I feel that when I have children I would like them to learn just the opposite.

  • Bucko says:

    Phil it treated very good and if let go he would not make it in the wild. Why are all the left wingers trying to change this country and its American traditions. There are plenty of abused pets who need help. Leave phil alone!

  • Paul says:

    I agree that this spectacle is one of the dumbest events ever participated in by alleged intelligent humans but as long as it continues leave them alone. The animal is not abused and probably lives better than some of you.

  • Patty says:

    Ok so we are taking Phil out of his natural life. But come on peta he gets the best of everything. He dont have to worry about being killed. He gets his food without fighting for it. What about zoos they keep all sorts of animals out of their natural enviroment. Why not replace all the animals in a zoo with robots. I love what you all do but come on this is absurd. If he gets sick he goes to the vet and he gets checked out every year no matter what. If you going to take away this tradition does that mean take away Christmas Easter ect. ARE YOU SERIOUS PETA!!!!!!

  • Marie says:

    Groundhogs usually live from two to three years but can live up to six years in the wild. In captivity groundhogs can exceed this limit by example the 22yearold Wiarton Willie may indicate the maximum lifespan. Common predators for groundhogs include wolves coyotes foxes bobcats bears large hawks owls and dogs. Young groundhogs are often at risk for predation by snakes which easily enter the burrow. i think a groundhog such as phil or willie are lucky to have caring people to take care of them…if they were in the wild they wouldn’t live as long and would never see a vet nor get feed and cared for these groundhogs are happy and healthy!!! I am a huge animal lover all my pets are unwanted and i have rescued each and everyone one…for someone to think that these groundhogs are being harmed in any such way is lack of education

  • Pam Ernest says:

    Some people wouldn’t know a publicity stunt if it hit them in the acorns…

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