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.
Crikey, what a great way to honour an Aussie legend. Today's #GoogleDoodle features @AustraliaZoo's #SteveIrwin, a legendary zookeeper, conservationist and father 🐊https://t.co/gQ2efNeN9a @GoogleDoodles @googledownunder pic.twitter.com/EVdkdN8Fdo
— Australia (@Australia) February 21, 2019
But that attracted the ire of animal rights activists Peta, who said the Doodle sent a “dangerous, fawning message”.
#SteveIrwin was killed while harassing a ray; he dangled his baby while feeding a crocodile & wrestled wild animals who were minding their own business. Today’s #GoogleDoodle sends a dangerous, fawning message. Wild animals are entitled to be left alone in their natural habitats. https://t.co/9JfJiBhGLw
— PETA (@peta) February 22, 2019
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.
Steve Irwin and his family reclaim land for animals and run a massive wildlife rescue. His life mission was to save animals and educate people about them. I’m one of many vegetarians who rip out their hair when @peta weighs in. Shame on you. https://t.co/m4fdNymjao
— Maureen Johnson (@maureenjohnson) February 23, 2019
There have been few people who have done more for wildlife conservation and education than the Irwin family. You owe them an apology.
— Dave Hogg (@stareagle) February 23, 2019
Steve dedicated his life to animal conservation. He brought attention to animals who needed protection, and he taught a generation of children, including me, the value of all life. How each and every animal should be respected.
— Steven Spohn (@stevenspohn) February 22, 2019
Steve Irwin saved the lives of countless animals in his sanctuaries. He helped educate millions globally about animals’ needs and ways of life. He loved animals and cared for them greatly. You do some good work helping animals PETA, but how about some balance and more respect… https://t.co/olpLCvKepN
— Dan Clark (@DanClarkSports) February 22, 2019
They are not worth the energy. Keep preserving, fighting the good fight for animals and living the legacy Steve was living.
We got your back.'
— Kambree Kawahine Koa (@KamVTV) February 23, 2019
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”.
It is harassment to drag exotic animals, including babies taken from their mothers, around from TV talk shows to conferences & force them to perform as Steve Irwin did. Animals deserve to live as they want to, not as humans demand––the #GoogleDoodle should represent that.
— PETA (@peta) February 23, 2019
Meanwhile, one Twitter user suggested Peta had managed to get people to unite “across cultural and political barriers” with its criticism.
Man… I’ve never seen this website mobilize across cultural and political barriers before… until PETA came at Steve Irwin…. that dude really could’ve saved the world. Uniting twitter posthumously is God like.
— Chris Long (@JOEL9ONE) February 23, 2019
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.