For Immediate Release:
February 3, 2023
Robin Goist 202-483-7382
Val-d’Espoir, Quebec – Following news that Fred la marmotte died shortly before this year’s Groundhog Day event, PETA sent a letter today to Roberto Blondin and Renée Laurendeau—Fred’s handler and the event’s spokesperson, respectively—offering condolences on the loss of Fred and urging them not to replace him with “Fred Jr.,” as they reportedly plan to do. The group points out that this year’s event, in which a child made the “prediction,” was well received—and says that if Blondin and Laurendeau make this their new tradition, PETA will supply a children’s groundhog costume.
The group also suggests other animal-free options that Val-d’Espoir could use—including an animatronic groundhog (whom they could name Fred) with artificial intelligence that could actually predict the weather—to celebrate Groundhog Day without dragging a shy animal out of hibernation, transporting him to an unfamiliar location, and subjecting him to distressing loud crowds, bright lights, and human handling.
“Instead of using frightened wildlife as props, Val-d’Espoir could celebrate the holiday with a child whose participation is voluntary, who loves the attention, and whose forecast would be equally as unscientific as a groundhog’s,” says PETA President Ingrid Newkirk. “If the ‘Jour de Fred’ retires the real groundhogs, PETA would gladly provide a children’s groundhog costume for future events, along with delicious vegan hot chocolate for attendees to enjoy.”
PETA—whose motto reads, in part, that “animals are not ours to use for entertainment”—opposes speciesism, a human-supremacist worldview. For more information, please visit PETA.org, listen to The PETA Podcast, or follow the group on Twitter, Facebook, or Instagram.
PETA’s letter to Blondin and Laurendeau follows.
February 3, 2023
Dear Messrs. Blondin and Laurendeau:
I’m writing on behalf of People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals—PETA entities have more than 9 million members and supporters globally, and PETA U.S. is the largest animal rights organization in the world—to offer our condolences on the loss of Fred la marmotte and in response to news that you’re planning to train Fred Jr. to replace him in 2024. We strongly urge you to honor his memory and respect all wildlife by ending this tradition. Here’s why:
As a prey species, groundhogs are shy, sensitive animals who avoid humans at all costs, if they can. Dragging them out of hibernation and holding them up in front of a crowd of people inarguably can cause them significant stress. As if that weren’t enough, groundhogs can transmit zoonotic pathogens to humans. This situation poses a safety risk to their handlers and could increase the risk of illness from infectious diseases. And with the blaring voice of an announcer and hooting and hollering from the audience only feet away from the groundhog, these events are frightening and distressing to them, as these animals have highly sensitive hearing. With all due respect, regardless of the intent of this entertainment, the message conveyed to the public is irresponsible and condones the inhumane treatment of animals.
There are plenty of excellent ways for Val-d’Espoir to celebrate on February 2. Please consider using an animatronic groundhog with artificial intelligence that could actually predict the weather, holding a contest for best groundhog costume, or having children continue to predict the weather—something that was well received at this year’s event. A child’s participation is voluntary and provides you with a forecast just as unscientific as that of a groundhog.
Respectfully, we ask that you please stop exploiting wildlife, for the sake of humans and other animals alike. If you commit to no longer using real groundhogs for your event, we’d be happy to provide you with a children’s groundhog costume for future events and delicious vegan hot chocolate for all attendees. We look forward to hearing from you. Thank you for your consideration.
Very truly yours,