The Internet vs. PETA

Google gave tribute to the late “Crocodile Hunter” Steve Irwin on February 22, his 57th birthday, with a Google Doodle that honored him and his legacy as an educator and wildlife advocate.

The search engine often honors celebrities by redesigning their logo with a ‘doodle’ reflecting their work. The slideshow of illustrations for Irwin show him exploring, holding a crocodile and hanging out with his wife and kids. He is best known internationally as the host of the television show “The Crocodile Hunter” and as the owner of the Australian Zoo.

On Twitter, PETA, which stands for People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals, doesn’t shy away from controversy. Stoking anger in their opponents, the organization responded to the doodle by criticizing Irwin:

The famous TV personality from Australia was tragically killed at the age of 44 by a stingray while filming an underwater documentary in 2006. It wasn’t long before social media users came to the defense of Irwin, following what should have been a remembrance of him on his birthday, and called out PETA’s hypocrisy. The animal rights group went on to condemn Irwin’s actions and said he used animals simply as performers with no respect for them. Many tweets pointed out how PETA doesn’t save many animals with the money it gets through donations:

The backlash to PETA’s comments about Steve Irwin highlights the tension between the controversial organization and the internet. As it appears that PETA often intentionally stirs up controversy, their Tweet about Steve Irwin, and their refusal to apologize for it matches this pattern.

If nothing else, this experience helped people better remember the work that Irwin did during his life to help animals, and that Steve Irwin has done more to save animals than most.