With an eye on Groundhog Day next Tuesday --- and always looking for ways to make headlines --- People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals (PETA) this week targeted Punxsutawney Phil, the famous weather-forecasting groundhog, saying it’s unfair to keep the animal in captivity and calling for a robotic replacement, notes Grumpy Editor.
The rodent resident of Punxsutawney, Pa., is treated like the town’s ace public relations person, complete with quarters at Groundhog Zoo at Punxsutawney Memorial Library.
The normally burrowing woodchuck, if fact, grabs more print and broadcast coverage that any Madison Ave. PR person could create for such a small town, population 6,150, about 65 miles northeast of Pittsburgh.
In fact, the media love him.
On every Feb. 2 media congregate when Punxsutawney Phil emerges. If he fails to see his shadow, that signifies winter will soon end. But if Phil casts a shadow, then it means winter will continue for six more weeks --- a prognostication routine that marks its 121st year in 2010.
But PETA claims furry Phil can become stressed when “exposed to large, screaming crowds, flashing lights from perhaps hundreds of cameras and human handling.”
The animal rights group suggests Phil should be replaced by a robotic groundhog. That means using technology utilized in animatronics devices such as seen at Walt Disney World or Disneyland.
That gets the townsfolk upset.
Bill Deeley, president of the Inner Circle of the Punxsutawney Groundhog Club, says Phil “is treated better than the average child in Pennsylvania.”
The groundhog’s quarters at the zoo --- periodically inspected by the state Department of Health --- is air-conditioned during the summer months and heated during cooler periods, he adds.
Those are much better conditions than living underground.