JANUARY 28 2010 17:56h
PETA is taking aim at America's annual Groundhog Day ritual, urging that Phil be replaced by a robot.
The animal rights group PETA is taking aim at America's annual Groundhog Day ritual, urging that the weather-forecasting rodent at the heart of the celebration be replaced by a robot.
People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals criticized the frenzied annual celebration in Punxsutawney, Pennsylvania, where each February 2nd a groundhog named Punxsutawney Phil checks too see if spring is coming.
- Give Phil a holiday this Groundhog Day - PETA wrote on its blog.
The lobby group's executive vice president, Tracy Reiman, called for a robot stand-in.
''Switching to a robotic animal for Groundhog Day celebrations would be a win-win situation for the town,'' she wrote in a letter to the Punxsutawney Groundhog Club's Inner Circle, which organizes the bizarre annual festival.
- An animatronic groundhog would attract new and curious tourists, and the real groundhogs would finally get a good winter's sleep - she added.
- Groundhogs are typically shy animals and are likely to feel fear and stress when they are out of their burrows - according to PETA.
The tradition, made famous in the 1983 Bill Murray comedy "Groundhog Day," requires the marmot to be awakened from hibernation on February 2.
If he appears to see his shadow, winter will continue for six weeks. If not, spring starts.
PETA's suggestion fell on deaf ears.
''This is just crazy,'' William Deeley, president of the Inner Circle, told the New York Daily News.
Writing in to PETA's blog, one Punxsutawney Phil fan mocked the cruelty suggestion:
''He is the most pampered Groundhog on the planet. What groundhog would not want to trade places with him? All other groundhogs... I bet they like getting shot at in farmers fields and being roadkill. COME ON!''