PETA — or People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals — is calling on the Punxsutawney Groundhog Club to retire the living, breathing iteration of Punxsutawney Phil.
The animal rights organization is, instead, presenting a rather new concept for their review: Replacing the groundhog with an AI robot version of the real thing.
Groundhog Day is Monday and the annual ceremony takes place in Punxsutawney, Pennsylvania, which is about 85 miles northeast of Pittsburgh.
What are the details?
In a Tuesday letter, PETA asked the club to consider its plea and release Punxsutawney Phil to a "reputable sanctuary."
The organization proposes that the club substitute the groundhog with a "cutting-edge animatronic groundhog that could actually predict the weather using artificial intelligence instead."
According to tradition — and legend — there will be another six weeks of winter weather if Phil sees his shadow. If he doesn't, it will be an early spring. Punxsutawney has been using a groundhog in the annual ceremony for at least 134 years.
Tracy Reiman, who is PETA's executive vice president, said, "Gentle, vulnerable groundhogs are not barometers. PETA is offering the club a win-win situation: Breathe life into a tired tradition and finally do right by the long-suffering animal."
According to the letter — which was penned by PETA President Ingrid Newkirk — using a live groundhog diminishes the animal's rights.
"Today's young people are born into a world of terabytes, and to them, watching a nocturnal rodent being pulled from a fake hole isn't even worthy of a text message," Newkirk wrote. "Ignoring the nation's fast-changing demographics might well prove the end of Groundhog Day."
Newkirk pointed out that the groundhog ends up befuddled by the entire tradition.
"When Phil is dragged out of his hole and held up to flashing lights and crowds, he has no idea what's happening," Newkirk complained. "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."