Let Phil see his shadow: in defense of Groundhog Day

Ava Mac ‘21, Managing/Copy Editor


A common misconception is the fact that white people have no culture, but people seem to forget that we have had a groundhog named Punxsutawney Phil predict the weather every Feb. 2 since 1887. If that is not considered culture, then well, those naysayers are correct, and white people truly have none.

Is it a ridiculous and not even remotely accurate tradition? Yes. But is it an amusing, lighthearted day of the year in which we take nothing seriously and come together to stare at an enlarged rat? Yes. The meteorology skills of Phil may not be great (only 39 percent accuracy), but that furry fellow can sure fill people with joy, and that is simply something that should never end.

Some people think otherwise, as the People of Ethical Treatment of Animals (PETA) has demanded that the longstanding tradition be updated. “Times change. Traditions evolve. It’s long overdue for Phil to be retired,” Ingrid Newkirk, president and founder of PETA, said.

According to PETA’s beliefs, Phil is being deprived of the peaceful, undisturbed life that every groundhog deserves. Being around too many humans causes him a great deal of stress, and the camera flashes and loud noises of the immense crowds only adds to his confusion. PETA suggests that instead of subjecting Phil to this treatment every year, the Groundhog Club should replace the real animal with an animatronic groundhog equipped with artificial intelligence. 

“An AI Phil would renew interest in Punxsutawney, generating a great deal of buzz, much like Sony’s robot dog ‘aibo,’ which walks, plays, misbehaves, and responds to commands,” Newkirk explained. 

Groundhog Club president Bill Deeley, however, is still adamant to maintain tradition, saying people “want to see Phil himself. People across the country, and in some cases those traveling from other countries, come to see the real Phil on Groundhog Day.” This is evident in the numbers: Punxsutawney, Pennsylvania’s population goes from a meager 6,000 to over 40,000 for just this single event. 

And, as Deeley assures, “Phil lives better than [even] the average child in Western Pennsylvania.” Tucked away in his own burrow, protected from the dangerous cold, Phil lives lavishly in his habitat with enough bark and wood to munch and claw on for his whole lifetime. The only time he is subjected to the buzz of the public is on his very own holiday, and even then, he remains calm and collected, showing no resistance as he is held before thousands to see. For the rest of the year, besides a few smaller events, Phil is shielded from the outside world behind the glass wall of his burrow,  not disturbed by any visitor other than a veterinarian for his annual check up. 

It is safe to say, then, that Punxsutawney Phil is not in danger of any kind of mistreatment, and that Groundhog Day is a fun, harmless, although a little inaccurate holiday that should never be changed.


Photo courtesy of CNN.com

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