The debate between PETA and Steve Irwin first escalated on February 22, when Google celebrated his birthday with a Google Doodle. The image depicted Steve Irwin as a true wildlife conservationist who cared for the animals that made appearances on his show. PETA, angered by the positive image Google was promoting of Irwin, tweeted this: “#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.” PETA added onto their claim, stating, “Steve Irwin’s actions were not on target with his supposed message of protecting wildlife. A real wildlife expert & someone who respects animals for the individuals they are leaves them to their own business in their natural homes…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.”
Of course, the backlash PETA received was immense as many people were offended by their tweet. Some said PETA was being extremely disrespectful toward Irwin and his life’s work, while others verbally attacked the organization, saying that PETA is an embarrassment to animal rights and wildlife conservation organizations. Twitter user Dan Clark, an award-winning baseball blogger, defended Steve Irwin in his reply to PETA: “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…”
PETA’s mission statement states that they focus their attention on four areas where animal rights are most needed. These areas are in laboratories, in the food industry, in the clothing trade, and in the entertainment industry. Steve Irwin’s TV show directly falls under one of the four animal rights issues that PETA stands against, but I personally believe that they need to look deeper into his message. Irwin did not abuse animals on his show, but rather inspired children and adults alike to respect these creatures for what they were in the wild. Instead of knocking down other organizations and people who work constantly to protect and conserve animals, PETA should work with these other groups to inspire both people today and future generations about the importance of wildlife and conservation efforts.