What's shocking isn't that PETA wants to safeguard Punxsutawney Phil by replacing him with a robotic Groundhog Day prognosticator.
What's shocking is that the press takes seriously claims that the little fellow is not, and never has been, mistreated at the annual celebration. No, the go-along-to-get-along mainstream media is all too quick to take seriously the "debunkers" of claims by People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals.
AND WHAT you get is bunkum like this from Reuters:
Should America's most famous groundhog be replaced with a robot? Organizers of the annual Groundhog Day celebration don't think so.
Animal-rights group People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals (PETA) called for the move to spare Punxsutawney Phil, who makes a "prognostication" on the length of winter, the glare of the spotlight when he emerges from his burrow.
"It's very ridiculous," said Bill Deeley, president of the Groundhog Club, which runs the event in western Pennsylvania.
But PETA says the dawn ceremony, which is attended by as many as 40,000 people, can be traumatizing for the groundhog that would normally be hibernating at this time of year.
"Groundhogs are typically shy animals and are likely to feel fear and stress when they are out of their burrows," PETA said in a statement. "Each year on Feb 2, Punxsutawney Phil is trotted out to face human handling and hundreds of noisy people, flashing lights and cameras."
But Deeley disagreed, saying groundhogs may be done hibernating and starting to emerge from their burrows to begin the mating season.
Deeley also defended the club against charges of mistreating Phil, saying he gets an annual medical checkup and lives in a zoo enclosure that is air conditioned in the summer and heated in the winter.
YEAH, I'm sure the pickup Phil Connors used in 1993 to catapult a Phil to his fiery death at the bottom of a quarry was nice and warm. Really warm.
Who, then, is unserious here -- PETA or its sneering critics?
After all, it's not like any of this foofarah about the right of groundhogs not to be bothered is one scintilla as crazy as some Jesus-jumper quarterback and his mama making a Super Bowl ad attacking the absolute right of women to eradicate the little humans in their wombs.
Thankfully, however, we Americans are a serious people, fully capable of keeping our priorities straight.