"Leave Willie Alone!" Is Groundhog Day a cruel and unnecessary tradition?
Every year, people around North America hinge their hopes for the spring season on Groundhog Day, but is this annual tradition cruel to the animal at the centre of it?
Animal advocates have condemned the day for years, but that conversation is picking up steam on social media this year.
Animal Justice, a non-profit animal law organization, is one of the groups calling for an end to this yearly tradition.
Camille Labchuk, an animal lawyer and executive director for Animal Justice, called the tradition “absurd and abusive” and said it “needs to die.” She also says the “prediction” is fake.
In a blog post titled “Leave Willie Alone!” Animal Justice details how groundhogs suffer “as festival props.”
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Essentially, every year in Canada, on February 2, groundhogs are awoken early from their winter hibernation and “trotted out before a cheering crowd.”
Based on certain made-up factors, the groundhog reportedly determines whether spring will arrive early or not.
Dan Howe, the blog post’s author, says the experience is stressful for the wild animals, “who may flee or fight back in a panic.”
There have also been several instances where a groundhog has died, like when New York City’s mayor dropped a groundhog nearly a decade ago.
This morning, a groundhog used for predictions in Quebec was found dead.
Heartbreaking: #FredLaMarmotte, a groundhog used for Groundhog Day predictions in Quebec, was found dead this morning. He deserved so much more than a life in a small enclosure, & being treated like a prop for our entertainment 💔
— Animal Justice (@AnimalJustice) February 2, 2023
Howe says that in the wild, groundhogs are “crucial habitat engineers.”
“They are known to be extremely intelligent and form complex social networks. Groundhogs understand social behaviour, form kinship with their children, whistle to communicate threats to their community, and work cooperatively to solve tasks.”
In the end, Animal Justice says using real animals for Groundhog Day celebrations isn’t kind or compassionate and that there are other ways to celebrate the arrival of spring.
Leave the groundhogs alone.
— Jessica Scott-Reid (@JessLReid) February 2, 2023
Do you think Groundhog Day is a cruel tradition? Let us know in the comments.