Less than a week after it happened, PETA is already using the death of Steve Irwin, a.k.a. the Crocodile Hunter, as a chance to stir up controversy. As Dan Matthews, PETA’s celebrity outreach director, callously told MSNBC, “It comes as no shock at all that Steve Irwin should die provoking a dangerous animal … If you compare him with a responsible conservationist like Jacques Cousteau, he looks like a cheap reality TV star.

It was only a matter of time before these self-proclaimed “complete press sluts” used Irwin’s death as a means to draw attention to themselves. PETA has a history of exploiting human suffering for cheap publicity stunts. After Rudy Guliani was diagnosed with prostate cancer, PETA erected a billboard, showing the former New York mayor with a milk mustache, which read: “Got Prostate Cancer?” And PETA planned on using the image of the late President Ronald Reagan in a campaign linking meat consumption with Alzheimer’s disease until the recently widowed Nancy Reagan stopped them.

Ironically, Irwin has probably done more to encourage animal welfare than Ingrid Newkirk’s gang of animal-rights loonies ever has. A brief contrast in styles makes this point all too evident. PETA specializes in intentionally offensive, sexually suggestive, and overtly manipulative campaigns that seem to appeal to only the most die-hard, misanthropic animal activists. Irwin, on the other hand, used kid-friendly TV programs (and movies, stickers, T-shirts, trading cars, clothing lines …) as a platform to promote a genuine cross-generational appreciation of the natural world.

All this goes to show that PETA’s repulsive moral equivalence between animals and humans inevitably leads to a devaluing of human life. As one angry fan succinctly put it: “These people are sick. The guy has only been dead for a few days, show some respect.