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PETA Wants Punxsutawney Phil Replaced by Robot Groundhog

Bill Murray in Groundhog Day

Bill Murray and a friend drive a truck in a scence from the movie "Groundhog Day." (Columbia Pictures)

Animal-rights group PETA (People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals) wrote a Jan. 21 letter to organizers of the annual Groundhog Day spectacle in Punxsutawney, PA, demanding that the live groundhog used each year on Feb. 2 be replaced by a robotic version, USA Today reported Wednesday.

The paper showed a letter written by Gemma Vaughan, a PETA "Animals in Entertainment specialist," to Bill Deeley, president of the Inner Circle of the Punxsutawney Groundhog Club, in which Vaughan appeals to him to "make the compassionate decision to use an animatronic Phil and retire the live groundhogs who are used for Groundhog Day activities to a sanctuary."

Vaughan goes on to say that the groundhogs "become stressed when they are exposed to large, screaming crowds; flashing lights from perhaps hundreds of cameras; and human handling."

In response, Deeley told the Associated Press that Phil is kept in a climate-controlled environment, is inspected annually by the state Department of Agriculture and is "being treated better than the average child in Pennsylvania."