PETA suggests replacing Punxsutawney Phil groundhog with giant gold coin: 'Cruel annual gimmick is abusive'

PETA previously suggested using an animatronic groundhog to replace Punxsutawney Phil

The animal rights group PETA wants to replace Punxsutawney Phil, the beloved groundhog that is used to forecast weather during the annual Groundhog Day celebration in Pennsylvania, with a gold coin, the group said this week.

The People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals wrote an open letter on Monday to the Punxsutawney Groundhog Club in Pennsylvania, in which they encouraged its president, Tom Dunkel, to remove the animal from the celebration. Should he formally retire Phil and take him to a sanctuary, then PETA would present the group with "a giant coin," they said in the letter.

"Beyond a shadow of a doubt, a groundhog’s weather prediction is no more accurate than flipping a coin," the animal rights group said. "He is not a meteorologist and deserves better than to be exploited every year for tourism money."

It added: "Should kindness prevail, the huge coin could easily replace him as the Pennsylvania town’s gimmick to draw in tourists."


Punxsutawney Phil, two officials

Pennsylvania Gov. Josh Shapiro poses with groundhog handler AJ Dereume and Punxsutawney Phil at the 137th annual Groundhog Day festivities on Feb. 2, 2023, in Punxsutawney. (Michael Swensen/Getty Images)

PETA has consistently called for Phil's retirement in recent years, offering multiple suggestions on how to replace him as the town’s gimmick, including an animatronic groundhog.

"Groundhogs are shy, solitary animals who socialize with other groundhogs only to choose a partner," the animal rights group said. "They don’t want to live in confinement in a local library, where they can’t do anything that’s natural and important to them. They also don’t want to be used to prognosticate the weather or be exposed to flashing cameras, human handling or noisy crowds."

Phil the groundhog

PETA suggested the iconic rodent has his own individuality and said using him during the Groundhog Day celebration was "abusive." (Michael Swensen/Getty Images)

In the statement, PETA suggested the iconic rodent has his own individuality and said using him during the Groundhog Day celebration was "abusive."


"Phil is an individual who, although intelligent and self-aware, can’t predict the weather," they wrote. "Even if he could, keeping him or any other animal imprisoned for a cruel annual gimmick is abusive."

Ahead of Groundhog Day, PETA is also placing several advertisements throughout Sun Prairie, Wisconsin – which uses its own Jimmy the Groundhog – to encourage the city to retire his use as well.
The PETA logo

Ahead of Groundhog Day, PETA is also encouraging Sun Prairie, Wisconsin, to stop using its own groundhog, Jimmy, during Groundhog Day celebrations. (Yann Schreiber/AFP via Getty Images)

The new ad reads, "I’m ME, not a meteorologist" and "It’s time to chuck this tired old tradition."

"Every groundhog is someone," PETA wrote in their Monday statement.

The animal rights group also argued a coin would be more accurate than Phil, who they said had an overall accuracy rate of about 36%.

Punxsutawney is located approximately 80 miles northeast of Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania.

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