PETA has once again found itself on the wrong side of public opinion after sparking a huge backlash from its tweets criticizing the late Steve Irwin, a much-loved TV presenter and conservationist who passed away in 2006.
The animal rights group decided to go on the attack on what would've been Irwin's 57th birthday, after Google decided to honor his memory with one of their 'doodles.'
“Today's Google Doodle celebrates Steve Irwin, the legendary Australian wildlife advocate & TV personality whose bravery & passion opened the eyes of millions to the wonders of wildlife,” Google tweeted, alongside a sweet tribute picture of the 'crocodile hunter.' People's reactions were overwhelmingly positive, sharing their favorite memories of the lovable larrikin and some saying they were moved to tears.
However, PETA, with their usual smug, contrarian and joy-killing attitude, was having none of it. “Steve Irwin was killed while harassing a ray,” they wrote. “He dangled his baby while feeding a crocodile and wrestled wild animals who were minding their own business. Today’s Google Doodle sends a dangerous, fawning message. Wild animals are entitled to be left alone in their natural habitats.”
Needless to say, people were far from impressed. While there may be a glimmer of a point in PETA's controversial statement, Irwin did, of course, dramatize his show by getting quite physical with animals at times, his fans were quick to point out the hypocrisy of PETA. Some highlighted the high rate of euthanasia use in their shelters and their lack of tangible conservation efforts; Irwin and his family founded and maintain a large conservation sanctuary, contributing to the protection and rehabilitation of thousands of animals, while PETA seems to spend more and more time creating divisive and controversial 'awareness' campaigns.
Steve Irwin's family run Australia Zoo, which was opened by Steve's parents Bob and Lyn back in 1970. Steve had helped his parents since childhood to care for crocodiles and reptiles and to maintain the growing number of animals in the zoo. As Steve's TV show grew in popularity and generated extra funds, Steve and his wife Terri put all money raised from filming and merchandise into conservation and building new exhibits.
The TV series was called Crocodile Hunter and Steve co-hosted it with his wife Terri. It debuted on Australian TV screens in 1996 and made its way onto North American television the following year. The show soon became successful in the United States, the UK,and over 130 other countries, almost 500 million people came to be familiar with Steve's unique personality. His enthusiastic presenting style, broad Aussie accent, and catchphrases like "Crikey!" became known all over the world. Sir David Attenborough, the iconic British nature presenter, was also a fan of Steve and credited him for introducing many to the natural world. "He taught them how wonderful and exciting it was, he was a born communicator," he said.
Steve was incredibly passionate about animals and conservation, and thought that sharing his excitement about the natural world rather than preaching to people was the best way to promote environmental awareness. He was particularly concerned with the conservation of endangered animals and land clearing, which leads to loss of habitat. He considered conservation to be the most important part of his work: "I consider myself a wildlife warrior. My mission is to save the world's endangered species," he once said.
Steve founded the 'Steve Irwin Conservation Foundation,' which became an independent charity and was later renamed 'Wildlife Warriors Worldwide.' He also helped found 'International Crocodile Rescue, 'the 'Lyn Irwin Memorial Fund' (named in memory of his mother, who died in an automobile crash in 2000), and the 'Iron Bark Station Wildlife Rehabilitation Facility.'
On the 4th September 2006, Steve was on location at Batt Reef, near Port Douglas, Australia, filming the documentary series Ocean's Deadliest. In his spare time, Steve decided to snorkel in shallow waters while being filmed, he wanted to help get some footage for his daughter, Bindi, and her television programme.
While swimming in chest-deep water, Steve approached a short-tail stingray from the rear, so he could film it swimming away.
According to the incident's only witness, “All of a sudden [the stingray] propped on its front and started stabbing wildly with its tail. Hundreds of strikes in a few seconds”. Irwin initially believed he only had a punctured lung. However, the stingray's barb pierced his heart, causing him to bleed to death. The stingray's behaviour appeared to have been a defensive response to being boxed in.
Steve's legacy lives on, through his various conservation organisations and his family, who still own and run Australia Zoo. “We want to make sure that his message of wildlife and conservation continues,” his daughter, Bindi, said. “Because he was the world’s greatest conservationist and we never want that message to die.”