Peta faces backlash after criticising Steve Irwin on his birthday

'Steve Irwin’s actions were not on target with his supposed message of protecting wildlife.'

Animal charity Peta is facing a backlash after criticising Steve Irwin on what would have been his 57th birthday.

The Crocodile Hunter and TV conservationist, who died after being attacked by a ray he was filming in 2006, was remembered on Friday in the form of a comic book-style Google Doodle celebrating his legacy.

But that attracted the ire of animal rights activists Peta, who said the Doodle sent a “dangerous, fawning message”.

A statement from Peta president Ingrid Newkirk read: “Peta must ask who commissioned these dangerous, hagiographic cartoons of a man who died while harassing a stingray, dangled his baby while feeding a crocodile, and ‘wrestled’ wild animals who were minding their own business

“This fawning, ignorant tribute is a slap in the face to the vast majority of people who acknowledge that wild animals are entitled to be left alone in their natural habitats.”

The stance was widely condemned, with many people suggesting Peta should delete the comment and apologise to Irwin’s family.

Irwin’s family – his wife Terri and kids Bindi and Robert – have continued his conservation work since his death 13 years ago.

They run the Australia Zoo, own a wildlife hospital and support various charities that back animal conservation.

Despite the criticism, Peta stood by its stance, tweeting the Irwin’s “actions were not on target with his supposed message of protecting wildlife” and implying he was not a “real wildlife expert”.

Meanwhile, one Twitter user suggested Peta had managed to get people to unite “across cultural and political barriers” with its criticism.

Irwin was most famous for his TV shows, including The Crocodile Hunter, but he was also a prominent conservationist.

He created both the Steve Irwin Conservation Foundation and had a hand in numerous other animal charities, as well as fronting a number of campaigns aimed at protecting wildlife.