For Immediate Release:
January 22, 2024
Nicole Perreira 202-483-7382
Punxsutawney, Pa. – PETA is calling for some serious change this Groundhog Day: The group sent a letter this morning to The Punxsutawney Groundhog Club’s president, Tom Dunkel, offering to send a giant gold coin to replace Punxsutawney Phil—whose weather predictions are no more reliable than a coin toss—on the condition that Phil finally be allowed to live out his days at a reputable sanctuary. PETA notes that groundhogs are naturally shy animals who enjoy burrowing, exploring, and hibernating—which are impossible in the small enclosure Phil is kept in year-round at the local library.
“Groundhogs can’t make heads or tails of the weather forecast and shouldn’t be jostled around by large members of a different species and thrust in front of noisy crowds for a photo op,” says PETA President Ingrid Newkirk. “PETA is urging The Punxsutawney Groundhog Club to send Phil to a reputable sanctuary that will give him the care he needs and not to treat him as a wildlife prop.”
PETA suggests coining a new name for the holiday, such as “Weather There’ll Be More Winter Day,” to demonstrate respect for Phil and set an example for how best to chuck this tired tradition. The group’s previous offers to provide a willing human replacement for Phil, who would live in his small enclosure and take his place making unscientific weather predictions, or to plant a persimmon tree, whose seeds are believed by some farmers to indicate the weather ahead, still stand.
PETA—whose motto reads, in part, that “animals are not ours to use for entertainment”—points out that Every Animal Is Someone and offers free Empathy Kits for people who need a lesson in kindness. For more information, please visit PETA.org or follow the group on X (formerly Twitter), Facebook, or Instagram.
PETA’s letter to Dunkel follows.
January 22, 2024
The Punxsutawney Groundhog Club
Dear Mr. Dunkel:
I’m writing once again on behalf of People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals—PETA entities have more than 9 million members and supporters globally, including many thousands in Pennsylvania—this time with a new offer that those who actually adore Phil will truly flip over: Give Phil the retirement party he deserves, complete with a ticket to a reputable sanctuary, and we’ll send you a two-sided giant coin to forecast the weather in his place. This makes cents for several reasons:
A giant coin—featuring one side that predicts “six more weeks of winter” and the other an “early spring”—would provide the Groundhog Club with a means of weather prognostication that would no doubt end up being more accurate than Phil, a sentient individual who surely has never consented to being the town’s “meteorologist.” A recent study conducted by researchers at Lakehead University in Thunder Bay, Ontario, showed that “beyond a shadow of a doubt” groundhogs are no better at predicting when spring will arrive than flipping a coin. A coin lands on the same side about 50% of the time, whereas Phil’s predictions have been shown to be correct around just 40% of the time.
Of course, accuracy is the least of the reasons why it’s time for change. Just as eating groundhogs is no longer part of the annual tradition, forcing a shy, sensitive animal out into the cold, waving him around overhead in front of loud crowds, and treating him like an object shouldn’t be, either. Today, we know that groundhogs are highly intelligent animals. When allowed, they avoid humans, create intricate networks of underground burrows, communicate with one another, and even climb trees. Keeping Phil confined year-round at the local library so that one day a year he can bring revenue and attention to Punxsutawney simply isn’t humane.
We hope this will be the year you make heads or tails of why retiring Phil would demonstrate respect and compassion and set a wonderful example for how best to move beyond “Groundhog” Day. You could even coin a new name for the day, perhaps “Weather There’ll Be More Winter Day.” If we didn’t quite “call it” with this offer, our previous offers to send a human replacement or a persimmon tree still stand. We’ll be sending you some wooden “Round Tuit” coins to encourage you to get around to it—that is, honoring Phil in the kindest way by retiring him.
Thank you for listening to our two cents. We look forward to hearing from you, as always.
Very truly yours,