Chuck the Cruel Tradition: PETA Offers to Replace Punxsutawney Phil With a Human

Published by Danny Prater.

Ahead of Groundhog Day, PETA made an offer to Tom Dunkel, president of The Punxsutawney Groundhog Club’s Inner Circle, that would enable the group to retire Punxsutawney Phil yet still attract tourists: Allow a PETA philanthropist to live in Phil’s sad little enclosure and take his place predicting the weather (with at least as much accuracy). If the club sends Phil and his companion, Phyllis, to a reputable sanctuary, 36-year-old Amber Canavan from Portland, Oregon, will gladly travel to Pennsylvania to take Phil’s place, live as he does now in the town library, livestream her monotonous life all year long, and give an equally unscientific weather forecast on February 2, even wearing a groundhog costume if that’s what the club wants.

“Punxsutawney Phil did not consent to living in a box in a library, where he’s denied the opportunity to hibernate, dig, burrow, explore, or do anything else that matters to a groundhog,” says Canavan.

“But I would gladly take Phil’s place if it will spare him a tedious life punctuated only by the confusion and terror of being dangled in front of a noisy crowd every year.”

Alternatively, PETA offered to send a telescope and a moon chart as another, perhaps more accurate, way to predict the weather. Our previous offers to send a persimmon tree, whose seeds are believed by some farmers to indicate the weather ahead, or a talking, animatronic groundhog still stand.

As PETA has pointed out before, it’s time to chuck this tired tradition.

Punxsutawney Phil is a groundhog, not a meteorologist.

A billboard in Marion, Ohio with a photo of a groundhog reads: "I'm ME, not a meteorologist. It's time to chuck this tired old 'tradition.'"

For more than century, Punxsutawney has been known for this one awful thing: forcing a shy animal out into the cold, subjecting him to crowds of people, and treating him like an object, all so he can make a completely unreliable “prediction.”

Now that The Punxsutawney Groundhog Club has a fellow mammal willing to be Phil’s replacement, the time has come for him and Phyllis to enjoy life at a reputable sanctuary.

Take Action for Groundhogs Like Punxsutawney Phil

Groundhogs are shy, sensitive individuals who live in underground burrows that can span many acres, and using them as props for folklore-based events is no cause for celebration—it’s a cruel form of speciesism, a human-supremacist worldview.

Marion, Ohio, radio station WMRN-AM previously used a live groundhog (known as Buckeye Chuck) supplied by Kokas Exotics—which is only licensed to breed and sell animals, not exhibit them—at its annual Groundhog Day event. After PETA alerted the station that harassing a groundhog in a stressful, unfamiliar environment is cruel and that using Kokas would be illegal, WMRN—for the first time in more than 30 years—didn’t feature a live groundhog at its 2023 event!

Buckeye Chuck’s reprieve is a small victory, and now PETA is calling on the radio station to commit to making all future Groundhog Day events animal-free and never exploit live groundhogs again.

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 Ingrid E. Newkirk

“Almost all of us grew up eating meat, wearing leather, and going to circuses and zoos. We never considered the impact of these actions on the animals involved. For whatever reason, you are now asking the question: Why should animals have rights?” READ MORE

— Ingrid E. Newkirk, PETA President and co-author of Animalkind