The animal rights group PETA is demanding that America's beloved harbinger of spring, Punxsutawney Phil, be replaced with ... a robot.In other animal rights wacko news, the kooks have also trained their sights on men's skating diva Johnny Weir, upset that the flamboyant Olympian is wearing fur.
The group says it's unfair of the Groundhog Day festival organizers to subject the furry critter to the bright lights and huge crowds that descend on the tiny Pennsylvania town of Punxsutawney every Feb. 2.
"Make the compassionate decision to use an animatronic Phil and retire the live groundhogs who are used for Groundhog Day activities to a sanctuary," wrote Gemma Vaughan of the People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals.
"Tradition is no excuse for cruelty."
William Deeley, president of the Inner Circle of the Punxsutawney Groundhog Club, said Phil is the most pampered groundhog in the world.
"This is just crazy," Deeley told the Pittsburgh Tribune-Review.
"Phil is probably treated better than the average child in Pennsylvania. He's got air conditioning in the summer, his pen is heated in winter ... He has everything but a TV in there. What more do you want?"
Besides, Pennsylvania already has an animatronic "Gus the Groundhog," who is the "spokesanimal" for the state lottery.
On January 17 Johnny Weir did his free skate in the U.S. Figure Skating Championships wearing a bodysuit with a hint of fox fur on the shoulder. Animal-rights groups, predictably, are not having it. One such organization, called Friends of Animals, posted an open letter to Weir on their site asking him not to wear fur. They also contacted his costume designer, Stephanie Handler, yesterday. The AP explains:Here's a look at Weir's "lovely" outfit.
Weir loves fashion, and his costumes tend to be on the avant-garde — some would say extreme — side. When the three-time U.S. champion redesigned his free skate costume before nationals, he had Handler add a tuft of white fox fur to the left shoulder.
Weir said he thought the costume was "lovely," but Friends of Animals disagreed.