People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals (PETA) this week called for Punxsutawney Phil to be retired from his annual Groundhog Day tradition and be replaced with an artificially intelligent robot that could actually predict the weather.
PETA President Ingrid Newkirk sent a letter to The Punxsutawney Groundhog Club, the organization which carries on the 1886 tradition of using the groundhog to determine whether there will be six more weeks of winter.
Newkirk wrote that groundhogs are prey species that actively avoid humans, so being in close proximity to the public causes them “great stress.”
“When Phil is dragged out of his hole and held up to flashing lights and crowds, he has no idea what’s happening,” Newkirk wrote. “Being relegated to a library ‘habitat’ for the other days of the year doesn’t allow him or the other groundhog there to dig, burrow, or forage. It’s no kind of life for these animals.”
The Feb. 2 event in Punxsutawney, Pa., is a weekend-long celebration surrounding the centuries-old folklore, which believed if a groundhog emerged from its burrow and did not see its shadow, spring will arrive early. If it does see its shadow, there is supposedly six more weeks of winter.
However, Phil has only gotten it right 40 percent of the time over the past 10 years, according to the National Centers for Environmental Information.
“Gentle, vulnerable groundhogs are not barometers,” PETA Executive Vice President Tracy Reiman said in a statement.
PETA argued that an animatronic groundhog could be enhanced with artificial intelligence that could more accurately 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,” Newkirk wrote in the letter. “Talk about taking your town’s annual tradition in a fresh and innovative direction.”
The Hill has reached out to The Punxsutawney Groundhog Club for comment.
Read the original article by Morgan Gstalter at thehill.com here.