Lock Me Up Instead! PETA PHILanthropist Offers to Swap Places With Punxsutawney Phil

For Immediate Release:
January 30, 2023

Robin Goist 202-483-7382

Punxsutawney, Pa. – Ahead of Groundhog Day, PETA made an offer to Punxsutawney Groundhog Club President Tom Dunkel today that would enable the club 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. In its letter, PETA writes that 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.”

PETA also offered, alternatively, to send a telescope and moon chart as another, perhaps more accurate, way to predict the weather and notes that its 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.

PETA—whose motto reads, in part, that “animals are not ours to use for entertainment”—opposes speciesism, a human-supremacist worldview. For more information, please visit PETA.org or follow the group on Twitter, Facebook, or Instagram.

PETA’s letter to Dunkel follows.

January 30, 2023

Tom Dunkel
The Punxsutawney Groundhog Club

Dear Mr. Dunkel:

I’m writing on behalf of People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals (PETA) with a new offer that will allow you to retire Phil yet still attract tourists. A PETA philanthropist has volunteered to take Phil’s place, live in the library enclosure year-round, and—with a 21st century spin—livestream their monotonous life in a tiny corner of the public library. They’re also willing to give an equally unscientific weather forecast on the big day, dressed as a groundhog if you like.

As we’ve pointed out before, it’s time to chuck this tired tradition. Phil is a groundhog, not a meteorologist. He did not consent to live in a library, where he’s unable to hibernate, dig, burrow, explore, or otherwise choose what to do with himself as he would if he lived in nature. For more than century, Punxsutawney has been known for this one awful thing: forcing a shy animal out in the cold, subjecting him to crowds of people, and treating him like an object, all so he can make a completely unreliable “prediction.” If we all clung this rigidly to archaic practices and didn’t know any better, Pennsylvania would still have the law it enacted in 1891 on the books, making it a crime to be “ugly.”

If you don’t like the philanthropist swap idea, we’ll gladly send you a telescope and moon chart as another option for “predicting” the weather. According to folklore, the day of the first snowfall plus the number of days after a new moon can predict how many times it will snow during winter. A ring around the moon supposedly means it will snow in 30 days, and they say that when the moon appears red, it’s a sign of rising humidity. Of course, our previous offers to send a persimmon tree or a state-of-the-art animatronic groundhog with artificial intelligence that could actually predict the weather still stand.

We hope you’ll agree—now that you have a fellow mammal willing to be Phil’s replacement—that the time has come for Phil and his companion, Phyllis, to enjoy life at a reputable sanctuary. If only a Marmota monax will do, we urge you to take the tradition back to its earliest roots by observing a wild groundhog emerging after hibernation—from a distance, without prodding, and with the freedom to wake up when he’s ready. Thank you for your consideration.

Very truly yours,

Ingrid Newkirk

For Media: Contact PETA's
Media Response Team.


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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