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Groundhog Day: PETA wants to replace Punxsutawney Phil with a robot

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David Maxwell/AFP

(Read caption) 2010 is a futuristic-sounding year, but is it time to replace Punxsutawney Phil with a robot? That's what PETA wants to do this Groundhog Day.

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With Groundhog Day just a few hours away, eyes turn toward Gobbler's Knob in Pennsylvania. Tuesday, Punxsutawney Phil will waddle from his hole, look for his shadow, and announce whether winter will tighten its grasp or step aside for Spring.

But this year, People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals (PETA) thinks it's time for the nation's hairiest weatherman to enjoy an early retirement. PETA's proposal: instead of parading and manhandling the wee groundhog, replace ol' Phil with a robot.

It's time to consider "retiring Phil to a sanctuary and replacing him with an electronic groundhog," says the official PETA blog. "Phil is forced to be on display year round at the local library and is denied the ability to prepare for and enter yearly hibernation.... Add to that the displeasure of large, screaming crowds, flashing lights of cameras, and human handling."

Animatronics have come a long way – last year, the Horizons blog even joked that President Obama should consider a robot dog. Rather than look for its shadow, an iPhil could analyze the latest weather patterns, perhaps even project how global warning might permanently usher in an early Spring.

Yet, won't a Phil-bot lack the cuddly charm of a real groundhog?

One PETA commenter thought so: "I think retiring Phil is not the best idea. Is living at a library with children who love him and show him affection that horrible?" asks Adam in response to the post. "He would suffer more hardship back in the wild then continuing what he has been doing his whole life. Also when you say screaming crowds, who is screaming? He's not Bono."


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