The Santa Clara
February 28, 2019
Feb. 22, 2019 would have been Steve Irwin’s 57th birthday. In honor of that, Google displayed an illustrated image of Irwin wrestling a crocodile in their logo. PETA made quick work of this sweet nod to the Aussie’s life with an official Twitter statement.
“#SteveIrwin was killed while harassing a ray; he dangled his baby while feeding a crocodile & wrestled wild animals who were minding their own business,” read the tweet. “Today’s #GoogleDoodle sends a dangerous, fawning message. Wild animals are entitled to be left alone in their natural habitats.”
Rightfully, the internet—myself included— responded with a largely unanimous, bombastic “no thanks.” PETA’s comments were tone-deaf, unintelligent and, perhaps worst of all, done solely for the purpose of ruffling feathers.
For those readers who didn’t religiously watch Animal Planet, Steve Irwin was an incredible inspiration. As a television presenter, he spoke to adults and children alike about the value of ecological awareness and taught the people all about the vast array of creatures that walk the Earth. He wrangled crocodiles, nurtured animals, ran a conservation-focused zoo and journeyed across Australia while chronicling the wonders of his world. All the while, Irwin raised a family of his own who carry on his work today.
On Sept. 4, 2006, on a dive in Queensland, Australia, Irwin was stung in the heart by a stingray. His death stunned fans and he was remembered by various media worldwide. His youngest fans who grew up watching his program lost a hero that day. My parents woke me up and told me the heart-wrenching news before I went to school. I still have the obituary clipping that the Los Angeles Times ran for him. So as you read what I have to say, keep in mind I take this whole affair very personally.
I was, of course, incensed by PETA’s comments. It seemed that their words, which are broadcast to quite a large audience, were a personal attack on one of my childhood heroes. Naturally, I was angry and wanted nothing more than to berate the cut-rate team that manages their media presence.
But I’m a man of reason. I know PETA has done quite a lot of good in the world and pursues a clear message of goodwill toward all animals. They have fought against abhorrent acts carried out by institutions like the Yulin Festival and Tyson Foods. I respect that work. I respect activism that is done tactfully, forcefully and intentionally. What I have no patience for is idiocy.
PETA has historically been guilty of an immense number of idiotic offenses that would make members of the 1960s activist movements groan in despair.
This comment, and comments like it, seem to come with little to no prompting. This was no landmark anniversary in the legacy of Steve Irwin, nor was it in response to some recentlysurfaced animal abuse scandal involving him. Instead—simply in response to a Google Doodle—the petulant minds of the PETA public relations team decided to throw a hissy fit.
The situation just isn’t that serious. Yes, situations that animals face are dire and often are overlooked by us heathenous omnivores. However, between my sinful mouthfuls of animal carcass, I still keep an ear out to see what meats are sourced ethically and what is being done to raise the standard of life for animals around the world.
While PETA’s voice is strong in these arenas, they seem to revel in picking fights and waging wars that just aren’t worth the time. With the resources and audience they have at their disposal, you would expect them to engage in something more worthwhile than attacking the reputation of a deceased television personality. There are animals out there that need our saving and if PETA is as righteous as they proclaim, they should be mobilizing themselves and addressing these issues instead of disrespecting a man who arguably did far more for the natural world than they ever have or will.
It’s important to note that PETA is notorious for their pugnacious, impish actions throughout the world.
As with everything, controversy sells more than erudite commentary. As an example, Australian PETA members shocked the world a number of weeks ago when they staged a protest at which they grilled a dog on a city sidewalk and posited to viewers that eating a dog is the same as eating a lamb.
Their actions were appalling but convincing. Later it was revealed that the dog was an incredibly lifelike prop and was simply meant for theatrical effect. But the absurdity of the action remains the same.To groups like this, nothing is holy. To be obscene is to be right in their eyes, and they repudiate any and all tactful behavior. My point is simple. Activism both here in the states and globally has left quite a wonderful mark on the world.
From the liberation of nations suffering under colonial powers to the civil rights movement in the U.S., many campaigns have been effective and have provided people with a precedent of civil disobedience that they can pursue in their own unique ways.
This enlightened approach to change is something that I am at once humbled and inspired by. But as I said before, I have no patience for idiocy—neither should you.
Our present world is plagued with moral, social, political and economic strife at every turn. But what should light a fire under your ass more than anything are the groups and the people who rebuff tastefulness and embrace sensationalized, ineffective “activism.”
Noah Sonnenburg is a sophomore communication major and is the Scene Editor.