PETA on the Warpath Over Punxsutawney Phil, the Groundhog Day Star

(Alessandro M. via Flickr)

I agree with Phil Connors in Groundhog Day about Punxsutawney Phil: “This is one time where television really fails to capture the true excitement of a large squirrel predicting the weather.”


It’s silly, of course. But the tradition is all-American. It’s civic boosterism on steroids and everyone loves to play along.

Everyone, that is, except PETA.

The animal rights group that’s been caught several times killing pets while promising to put them in “no-kill” shelters has got a bad case of the grumps going into this year’s annual Groundhog Day celebration in Punxsutawney, Pa. It seems that their coffers are nearly empty and they thought they saw a wonderful opportunity to raise some coin from the anti-fur, pro-baby seal crowd.

Why not stand up for the poor, mistreated groundhog, Punxsutawney Phil? The fact that Phil is kept in a “climate-controlled environment and gets an annual checkup as his care is governed by the U.S. Department of Agriculture” doesn’t matter to the fanatics at PETA.

Does anyone else think the USDA had rules governing the care and feeding of groundhogs?

The letter PETA sent to Punxsutawney Groundhog Club President Bill Deeley drips with condescension and an insufferable air of superiority.


“Gentle, vulnerable groundhogs are not barometers,” says PETA Executive Vice President Tracy Reiman. “PETA is offering the club a win-win situation: Breathe life into a tired tradition and finally do right by a long-suffering animal.”


Sometimes you “breathe life into a tired tradition,” and sometimes you kill it. I don’t think PETA cares either way.

Using technologically advanced electromechanical devices such as animatronics instead of live animals is more popular than ever. We even have the technology to create an animatronic groundhog with artificial intelligence (AI) that could actually predict the weather. An AI Phil would renew interest in Punxsutawney, generating a great deal of buzz, much like Sony’s robot dog “aibo,” which walks, plays, misbehaves, and responds to commands. By creating an AI Phil, you could keep Punxsutawney at the center of Groundhog Day but in a much more progressive way. Talk about taking your town’s annual tradition in a fresh and innovative direction!

I’ve never heard of Sony’s robot dog, but that’s not unusual for me. The last “buzz” I was interested in dates to the time Elle MacPherson was an SI swimsuit model.

Today’s young people are born into a world of terabytes, and to them, watching a nocturnal rodent being pulled from a fake hole isn’t even worthy of a text message. This is a generation whose members book rides on their smart phones and will never walk into a bank to deposit a check. Ignoring the nation’s fast-changing demographics might well prove the end of Groundhog Day.


The mountebanks at PETA have no more clue about what “young people” find interesting than politicians running for office. Who knows what will catch their fancy on February 2? Phil predicting the weather may go viral. It might be the biggest viral video since “The Greta Thunberg Helpline.”

Some day, all the animals will be saved and the world will all be vegans. We will go naked in the winter and wear fig leaves during the summer. Then, what of PETA?

Someone is going to have to look out for those “animatronic” groundhogs and dogs. Someone’s got to make sure they don’t get “stressed” or that their gears don’t get run down.

Don’t drive angry, buddy.



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