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PETA calls for retirement of Punxsutawney Phil, suggests tree as replacement

Groundhog Club handler A.J. Dereume holds Punxsutawney Phil, the weather prognosticating...
Groundhog Club handler A.J. Dereume holds Punxsutawney Phil, the weather prognosticating groundhog, as Vice President Tom Dunkel looks on during the 135th celebration of Groundhog Day on Gobbler's Knob in Punxsutawney, Pa. Tuesday, Feb. 2, 2021. Phil's handlers said that the groundhog has forecast six more weeks of winter weather during this year's event that was held without anyone in attendance due to potential COVID-19 risks. (AP Photo/Barry Reeger)(Barry Reeger | AP)
Published: Jan. 27, 2022 at 7:15 PM EST
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(Gray News) - PETA is calling for the retirement of Punxsutawney Phil, asking officials to instead predict the weather on Groundhog Day with a persimmon tree.

In a letter sent Tuesday to Jeff Lundy, president of The Punxsutawney Groundhog Club, PETA President Ingrid Newkirk said Phil and his companion Phyllis’ retirement to a reputable sanctuary is “long overdue.”

PETA said switching to using a tree would spare Phil noisy crowds, bright lights, and near-constant confinement.

The letter claims that persimmon seeds are said to predict the weather correctly about a quarter of the time, whereas Phil has “no idea what the weather will be or at least he’s not telling in ways humans can interpret.”

Newkirk writes that for far too long, Phil has been dragged out of a fake tree stump once a year and subjected to overstimulation that goes against 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,” the letter states.

The organization also offered a free animatronic groundhog that would “actually predict the weather using artificial intelligence.”

Groundhog Day takes place Feb. 2 with an annual ceremony in Pennsylvania.

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