PETA criticised for calling Steve Irwin an animal harasser, disrespectful on his 57th birthday

Animal rights organisation PETA is under fire for calling famed conservationist Steve Irwin an animal harasser and condemning a tribute to him on what would have been his 57th birthday.

On Friday (US Time), Google honoured Irwin, a well-known zookeeper and television host who was known as 'The Crocodile Hunter' before his death 2006, with a slideshow of illustrations.

The search engine frequently honours 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.

"Today's Google Doodle acknowledges the life and achievements of my husband Steve Irwin, whose efforts to protect wildlife and wild places have been recognized as the most extensive of any conservationist," wrote Irwin's wife Terri in a blog for Google.

But PETA (People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals) has blasted the illustrations as well as the zookeeper, who would have turned 57 on February 22.

"Steve Irwin was killed while harassing a ray; he dangled his baby while feeding a crocodile and wrestled wild animals who were minding their own business," PETA tweeted.

"Google Doodle sends a dangerous, fawning message. Wild animals are entitled to be left alone in their natural habitats."

The animal rights group goes on to condemn Irwin's actions and say he used animals simply as performers with no respect for them.

But their statement has not been well received online, with many people pointing out the bad taste of making the remarks on Irwin's birthdays, that Irwin rescued hundreds of animals, and the controversies PETA has been involved in.

"He done more for wildlife than you guys ever will," said one user, while another said "Wow someone is getting fired".

"You're like the kid who wasn't invited to the party but came anyway and shat in the pool just to get a reaction

Irwin was killed at the age of 44 when he was pierced in the heat by a stingray barb when filming an underwater documentary off the coast of Queensland.

He is best known internationally as the host of the television show The Crocodile Hunter and as the owner of the Australian Zoo.

In 2017, PETA apologised after taking an unattended dog out of a backyard in Virginia and euthanising it.