"Punxsutawney Phil"

In this file photo, Punxsutawney Phil is held up by his handler for the crowd to see during the ceremonies for Groundhog day on February 2, 2018 in Punxsutawney, Pennsylvania. 

(Meredith/CNN) -- Animal rights group PETA wants to use a robot instead of a live groundhog to predict the weather on Groundhog Day. 

The People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals wrote in a letter to the Punxsutawney Groundhog Club on Monday that it was time for the beloved tradition to change.

Every February 2, Punxsutawney Phil gets dragged out of his hole and held up to flashing lights and crowds in what is a highly stressful experience for him, PETA said. And his current accommodations don't allow him to dig, burrow or forage like non-famous groundhogs naturally do.

"It's no kind of life for these animals," PETA president Ingrid Newkirk wrote.

Punxsutawney Groundhog Club Inner Circle President Bill Deeley responded to PETA's request, in an interview with the Punxsutawney Spirit. 

"I have not read the letter from PETA yet, but again, I would invite them to come to Punxsutawney and see how Phil is treated. As I've said in the past, Phil lives better than the average child in Western Pennsylvania," Deeley told the newspaper. 

In a video posted to the Groundhog Club's Facebook page, co-handler John Griffiths joked about already having a robot.

"We found some old bicycle parts, inwards out of an old Pac-Man game, and this is what we came up," Griffiths said while pointing to Deeley, who then began dancing like a robot.

Phil lives in a man-made, climate-controlled and light-regulated zoo, according to the Punxsutawney Groundhog Club's website. That zoo is connected with local attractions including a park, square and library in the town of Punxsutawney, in western Pennsylvania.

PETA suggests that instead, the Punxsutawney Groundhog Club get hip to existing technologies and create a groundhog with artificial intelligence that could reliably predict the weather.

"By creating an AI Phil, you could keep Punxsutawney at the center of Groundhog Day but in a much more progressive way," the letter reads. "Talk about taking your town's annual tradition in a fresh and innovative direction!"

The animal rights organization also made a dig at the time-honored tradition of having Phil check for his shadow, which draws thousands of people to Gobbler's Knob each year.

"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," the letter reads. "Ignoring the nation's fast-changing demographics might well prove the end of Groundhog Day."

Copyright 2020 Meredith Corporation. All rights reserved.

Recommended for you

(2) comments


smh....PETA is terrible.


The kids will won't care either way. Why do these activist groups always ride on the backs of kids? It's the go-to thing. How about the heroin epidemic? How about the immense problem with ADHD medication abuse? Shame on PETA for using children as a platform to protest from.

Welcome to the discussion.

Keep it Clean. Please avoid obscene, vulgar, lewd, racist or sexually-oriented language.
Don't Threaten. Threats of harming another person will not be tolerated.
Be Truthful. Don't knowingly lie about anyone or anything.
Be Nice. No racism, sexism or any sort of -ism that is degrading to another person.
Be Proactive. Use the 'Report' link on each comment to let us know of abusive posts.
Share with Us. We'd love to hear eyewitness accounts, the history behind an article.