*Any students interviewed had their name kept anonymous. The direct quotes used in the article represent the views of the student, not the publication staff or adviser.

PETA’s Backlash on the Crocodile Hunter

A little over a week ago, the animal advocacy group PETA (People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals) tweeted a message condemning search engine Google for its usage of Steve Irwin, “The Crocodile Hunter”, as its Google Doodle for Irwin’s 57th birthday. The tweet lambasted Irwin for harassing a ray, dangling his baby while feeding a crocodile, and wrestling wild animals, and Google for sending a “dangerous, fawning message” to its users.

What is PETA?

A screenshot taken of the PETA tweet. Screenshot from Twitter
A screenshot taken of PETA’s tweet against Steve Irwin. Photo by: Douglas Pham

Founded back in March 1980 by animal rights activists’ Ingrid Newkirk and Alex Pacheco, PETA has become the largest nonprofit animal rights organization. With more than 6.5 million members worldwide, PETA aims to spread its mission statement of saving animals. In the 39 years of its existence, the animal rights organization has campaigned and protested for the humane treatment of animals. Its core beliefs include “opposition to factory farming, fur farming, animal testing, and the use of animals in entertainment”. In addition to those core beliefs, it advocates for a vegan lifestyle. After the Silver Spring monkeys case, which involved the inhumane experimentation of 17 monkeys at a research center in Maryland, the organization began to gain traction around the world.

Although PETA campaigns for the humane treatment of animals, many often criticize the organization’s extreme marketing tactics. Some of the extreme marketing campaigned by PETA can be noticed when they’ve compared the killing of chickens to the Holocaust and having models lay out on the street packaged as “human meat”.

Their ads are very straightforward and sometimes aggressive,” a student said. “But that is how they get their message across and how they get talked about, and [because of this,] more awareness is being spread.”

Another source of public criticism comes from its practice of neutering and euthanization of animals it takes in.

The Steve Irwin Controversy

On Feb. 22, PETA tweeted out a message from its Twitter account. In the tweet, it stated: “#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.”

From that tweet, a controversy arose among the public. The controversy sparked a huge backlash against the animal rights organization. People against the organization labeled PETA as “insensitive” and “disrespectful”. Even wildlife conservationist Anneka Svenska opposed PETA’s view on Irwin, telling BBC Radio 1 that Irwin “has inspired the next generation of conservationists”. In response to the criticism, PETA later released an official statement. PETA’s official statement continued to condemn Irwin for his actions. In addition, the official statement released by PETA did not include an official apology. Due to no official apology, PETA continued to anger the public.

PETA's official statement in response to criticism received from the Steve Irwin tweet.
PETA’s official statement in response to criticism received from the Steve Irwin tweet.


A Student’s Opinion on the Controversy

At Cain, while PETA’s influence may not seem apparent, a few students believe in PETA’s core beliefs.

“PETA is an organization to help animals and help spread awareness on the cruelty that is being given to them and how to help them in ways. Basically, what we can do for our part to help them, ” a student said. “I’m in PETA 2, which is for people under the age of 21 so I’m not allowed to actually to be in any real activities that are taking part. So what I do, is on the app, I can send messages to corporations or stuff… Or, I can help post on social media PETA photos to help the animals.”

The student also voiced their opinions on the Steve Irwin tweet.

“I think people should give them a chance and not look at the only bad things they do,” the student said. “I believe PETA was just trying to spread what Steve Irwin actually did so people can not follow in his footsteps and hurt other animals. But I do think it was a little rude to [diss him on the day of his birth].”

As a PETA 2 member, the student wants everyone to look beyond the extreme things PETA does for its cause.

“All of their evidence, like hard proof evidence,” the student said. “Pictures and videos and stories they have of animals actually being hurt while they’re being hurt. Or like [evidence of them] used for products or foods and see what people are actually doing to them.”