National

Read: PETA’s letter on why Punxsutawney Phil should be replaced with a persimmon tree

"For far too long, he’s been dragged out of a fake tree stump and subjected to noise, flashing lights, and crowds, against all of his natural instincts."

Groundhog Club handler A.J. Dereume holds Punxsutawney Phil, the weather prognosticating groundhog, during the 135th celebration of Groundhog Day on Gobbler's Knob in Punxsutawney, Pa., Tuesday, Feb. 2, 2021. AP Photo/Barry Reeger

As Groundhog Day approaches, People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals (PETA) is advocating for an extreme break in tradition: replacing Punxsutawney Phil with a persimmon tree.

The tradition, which dates back to 1887 in Punxsutawney, Penn., follows Punxsutawney Phil, who either sees his own shadow (meaning six more weeks of winter), or doesn’t (meaning an early spring).

PETA’s president wrote to the Punxsutawney Groundhog Club and suggested letting Phil retire and planting a persimmon tree instead. The seeds, PETA says, are “said to be accurate in predicting the weather 25% of the time, not too far off from Phil’s average.”

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Read the letter addressed to the president of the club Jeff Lundy below:

Dear Mr. Lundy:

I’m writing on behalf of People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals—PETA entities have more than 9 million members and supporters globally, including many in Pennsylvania—once again to ask that you please retire Punxsutawney Phil (along with his companion, Phyllis) to a reputable sanctuary.

As you know, Phil is certainly not a real meteorologist and didn’t volunteer for this job. For far too long, he’s been dragged out of a fake tree stump and subjected to noise, flashing lights, and crowds, against all of his natural instincts. For the rest of the year, he’s forced to live in a library “habitat” that doesn’t allow him to do anything that’s natural and important to him, such as hibernating, digging, burrowing, foraging, smelling fresh air, and simply living like a sentient being, not an exhibit.

There are plenty of ways for Punxsutawney to remain a significant tourist destination for weather forecasting. You could listen to the chirps of crickets, check the height of hornets’ nests, and look at the thickness of regional apple skins and cornhusks and then issue a report. We’d also be happy to send you a persimmon tree to plant in Gobbler’s Knob so that you could hold a ceremony to check the seeds annually. (They’re said to be accurate in predicting the weather 25% of the time, not too far off from Phil’s average.) And of course, our offer still stands to donate a state-of-the-art animatronic groundhog with artificial intelligence that could actually predict the weather.

We hope you’ll agree that it’s time to replace this tired tradition and take the opportunity to demonstrate that the best way to celebrate Groundhog Day is by ending the abuse of live animals immediately. Thank you for your consideration.

Very truly yours,

Ingrid Newkirk

President

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