Lex: Sh. Sh. Don't let the monsters come over here.
Dr. Alan Grant: They're not monsters, Lex. They're just animals. And these are herbivores.
Tim: That means they only eat vegetables, but for you I think they'd make an exception.This trope, along with Predators Are Mean, are a fairly common approach to Carnivore Confusion in fiction. Basically, all the villains are carnivores and all the herbivores, particularly if they can talk, are heroes. Like Predators Are Mean, this trope has been around for such a long time that it may be one of The Oldest Ones in the Book. Herbivores Are Friendly often, but not always goes hand-in-hand with Predators Are Mean. This trope and Predators Are Mean are so strong culturally that people assume that many Real Life predators (whether omnivorous or carnivorous by nature) are mean, evil, and nasty, and all the herbivores are cute, cuddly, and friendly! This is not true for the most part. For example, the common house cat, one of the world's most popular pets, is carnivorous and the harmless whale shark, the gentlest of all sharks, is omnivorous. Inversely, the big herbivores are some of the most dangerous, surliest animals; the loveable hippo and elephant are known for attacking and killing humans (even) without being provoked. In other words just because an animal won't eat you, doesn't mean it won't hurt you. For example, Temple Grandin's book Animals in Translation shows that, surprisingly, even the huge, social, herbivorous domestic cow can be more dangerous to handle than the large, largely solitary, predatory tiger is. A cow or bull can attack a person out of dominance, but a tiger won't because they don't care about constant jostling within a social hierarchy. You obviously have to be extremely careful not to trigger any big cat's prey drive, but there isn't any dominance aggression. One common exception for the herbivores, when they are portrayed as dangerous in fiction, is when they go on an Animal Stampede. Goes hand-in-hand with and opposite of Predators Are Mean. Often associated with Carnivore Confusion. Subtrope to Good Animals, Evil Animals and Always Lawful Good.
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- Atomic Robo: Zig-zagged in "The Trial of Atomic Robo". Doctor Dinosaur's latest killing machine is the "omnisaur" — half Triceratops, half Ankylosaurus and half Stegosaurus. Robo points out that those are all herbivores.
Dr Dinosaur: Herbivores. What was I thinking? Oh, right! The super-beams!
Robo: The what? [omnisaur starts glowing]
Film — Animated
- The main dinosaur characters from The Land Before Time. Chomper the friendly Sharptooth is an exception.
- In Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs, Snow White quickly gains the sympathy of a large group of Woodland Creatures, who do everything they can to help her. Nearly all of them are herbivores, with the sole exception of a couple of raccoons.
- Another dinosaur example is the movie Dinosaur. The main characters are all herbivores, and even the mean herbivore rivals are only trying to accomplish the greater good.
Film — Live Action
- Mothra is among the most peaceful of all kaiju and happens to be a nectar-feeding butterfly/moth. So long as you don't kidnap Her fairy companions or harm Her children in any way She won't hurt you. And if you do, you'll find that She wrecks cities as well as any Kaiju.
- A subversion occurs with Godzilla Junior. Though he is shown eating leaves in Godzilla vs. Mechagodzilla II, his species is actually carnivorous. Though, compared to his more aggressive father, he is quite friendly.
- Jurassic Park:
- In Jurassic Park, Dr. Grant calms Alex down when she sees nearby Brachiosaurus by reassuring her that they're plant-eaters.
- The Jurassic World website lists almost all of its herbivores as having low aggression, with the exception of the armor-plated Ankylosaurus, whose aggression is listed as "medium". Then again, they may have been genetically modified to be more docile to comply with visitor expectations.
- The herbivore dinosaurs in Terra Nova are shown to be playful in the pilot episode. The main character's youngest daughter even feeds them treats.
- Spoofed in Dinosaurs as the hervibores are presented as dinosaur versions of hippie pacifists and marihuana users, which becoms a problem when the son Robbie (think Lisa Simpson's version of the series) becomes hervibore.
- Mix with Our Werebeasts Are Different in Grimm: all the herbivore-based Wesen like the turtle-like Genio Inocuo and the sheep-like Seelengut are esentially harmless.
- Brian Jaques's Redwall series often shows this. Squirrels (not entirely herbivorous), hares, and other herbivores, and a few omnivores such as badgers, mice, and hedgehogs, are the heroes, where wholly carnivorous species such as weasels, stoats, wild cats, snakes, hawks, ferrets, foxes (actually omnivorous, but still predatory), and the like are the villains. This is rather odd considering the fact that the most prominent species, the mice of Redwall, are omnivores but never eat any meat besides fish. One would reason that they never eat any intelligent creatures, but there has been at least one intelligent talking fish in the series.
- Discussed in March Upcountry: Captain Pahner sees a large herbivore on an unfamiliar planet and tells his troops not to fire. Prince Roger shoots the thing anyway, because he has actually been on safari and knows that herbivores are not harmless (and because he hadn't figured out the com software yet and hadn't heard the order).
- Played around with in Dinoverse. In the first set of books, the Leptoceratopses abduct Candayce and shove Janine around, and Candayce figures out that they were trying to protect her - she's in the body of a Leptoceratops and they don't understand why she's hanging out with a Tyrannosaurus rex. Similarly, when they encounter a Triceratops herd, it is hostile in defense of its nests, but is less so later, realizing that a little Leptoceratops and a wounded Quetzalcoatlus aren't threats. The Ankylosaurus met later on is friendly to the boy in the Ankylosaurus body, but wary at best of all the others.
- The Hork-Bajir from the Animorphs series are, when free from Yeerk control, naturally docile and unintelligent creatures who use the numerous blades on their bodies to strip bark from trees for food. A community of Hork-Bajir who escape the Yeerks become close allies of the Animorphs.
Myth and Religion
- Some Christian sects in the United States, such as those behind the Creation Museum (Answers in Genesis) believe that this was the literal truth. All animals before the Fall were friendly herbivores, with one diorama showing a T. rex chomping on pineapples and another section allowing visitors to pose on a large, saddled model of a Triceratops. Likewise, the group maintains no animals were venomous before the Fall. The Texas-based Creation Evidence Museum believes the pre-Fall atmosphere made creatures live longer, made them more intelligent, and made them nicer. Commentary regarding their beliefs is probably subject to the Rule of Cautious Editing Judgment.
- Zig-Zagged in the Monster Hunter series. Most herbivores, like Aptonoths, really are friendly and peaceful. Herbivore bossmonsters like Diablos? Not so much.
- Inverted and played straight in Dinosaur King where while the heroes normally use herbivorous dinosaurs, one exception is a Carnotaurus.
- Subverted in Dino System Unless attacked, most herbivores are usually quite placid and ignore the player. Which can make it all the more surprising during survivor mode when a calm male Triceratops enters breeding condition and suddenly starts trying to kill the human survivor.
- Spore has creatures evolving. The first two stages (Cell and Creature) are spent deciding on a creature's diet. Later stages have the creatures evolved more, with their own moralities. Herbivores tend to be nice and social, carnivores tend to be hostile, while omnivores tend to be neutral and economic.
- Spore plays with this somewhat. When you advance to a new stage, you get bonuses and special abilities depending on how you spent the previous ones. Killing and eating your rivals would tend to give you combat bonuses when you acquired sapience, while socializing with other species and eating plants would give you social abilities instead. So if you began your evolution as a carnivore, you were encouraged to develop into a warlike civilization, while herbivores would be encouraged to play peacefully. However, you could defy this by simply not making use of your bonuses in the Tribal and Civilization stages.
- Subverted in Far Cry 3 and Far Cry 4. 3 has water buffalo that generally keep to themselves, but if you walk through their territory, they'll most likely chase you down and try to ram you. 4 has yaks which are pretty much just reskins of 3's water buffalo, as well as rhinos and elephants. The rhinos basically act the same way as the yaks, only they're faster, tougher, and do a lot more damage. The elephants, on the other hand, will not bother you at all unless you attack them — they'll even let you ride them, provided you have the necessary perk. However, once provoked, these elephants are very dangerous — and you can use this to your advantage, pitting them against your enemies and even riding them into battle.
- Despite the subversion in Far Cry 3, the binoculars identify animals as herbivore and predator, giving a clear distinction on which animals can attack. The identification is based on whether or not they're aggressive as opposed to their actual diet (e.g. Buffalo are tagged as predators.)
- Mammoths in The Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim are mostly peaceful, just don't annoy them or their giant owners. Otherwise, it's played very straight: bears will attack you on sight; deer (which are covered on Real Life) flee from you on sight. Unless, of course, you have any active buff preventing animals from reacting to your presence.
- Downplayed with the gurns, druffalo and brontos in Dragon Age: Inquisition. They won't attacked if they aren't provoked, but they'll fight tooth and nail if wounded.
- Kevin & Kell likes to subvert this often. Kevin and Kell's daughter is a rabbit that eats meat. Kevin himself is generally friendly, but is not above punching predators trying to eat him. In fact, for a mini-arc it ended up a problem for Kevin as one of predators sued him for "breach of nature, rabbits should run". And was retorted "breach of nature, predators should eat rather than sue". And it should be pointed out that Kevin's ex Angelique, genetically a rabbit (but posing as a rat), is one of the most vicious characters in the comic.
- Subverted in Freefall; Sam's Bizarre Alien Biology is edible and appetizing even to Terran herbivores.
- In My Little Pony: Friendship Is Magic pretty much everyone's a herbivore of some sort. This is pointed out in "Over a Barrel" when Pinkie Pie tries using it to create some common ground between some settler ponies and buffalo.
Pinkie Pie: Both our diets, I should mention
Are completely vegetarian
We both eat hay and oats
Why be at each others' throats?
- Spike the gem-eating dragon also gets a pass for being a lithovore, as it's not herbivory, but not carnivory either.
- Interestingly, in the opening of the episode "Dragonshy", Friend to All Living Things Fluttershy is shown feeding some otters (ferrets?) with fish, as well as giving worms to birds. While some fans think this contrasts with her character, others argue that being so close to nature means that she accepts the necessity of the circle of life.
- There's actually some people in real life who do this, as well — some strict vegetarians will still keep carnivorous pets even knowing that their food was made from animals (though others try to force a vegetarian diet on said pets, which can very easily go wrong).
- Crops up in the fandom more generally with the often seemingly inherent assumption that as plant-eating social animals ponies are intrinsically less aggressive or warlike, even though posturing and fighting for position and resources are as endemic to equines as most other social animals (humans included).
- A few episodes show that the ponies still have their share of jerks and bullies.
- Ponies are technically omnivores; in "Applebuck Season," Pinkie Pie mentions eggs, and in "Sisterhooves Social," Rarity makes fried eggs. By some definitions, they still qualify as vegetarian, but not as herbivorous. There's also the question of why pigs are raised.
- Something was said about this in the Magic School Bus episode where they went back in time and saw dinosaurs.
- The Wild Thornberrys Zig Zags it. Eliza easily makes friends with plenty of herbivorous animals, but she also encounters some aggressive ones as well, such as hippos and water buffalo which are true.
- The Simpsons often subvert this trope quite realistically. For example, in one episode Lisa tried to approach a herd of deer because they look harmless, but when she gets close enough they turn ferocious and try to attack her.
- Lampshaded in "Four Women and a Manicure" when the Wicked Witch of Snow White mocks a group of cute woodlands critters, most of which are herbivores. The critters proceed to gang up and tear the witch apart as she screams in agony.
- Doubly subverted in a school video starring Troy McClure,note where he convinces Bobbynote that it’s okay to eat meat. McClure warns Jimmy that “if a cow had the chance he’d eat you and everyone you care about,” as ominous music plays and the camera zooms in on a cow’s face. However, the cow’s face is so placid, that the idea of a threatening cow seems ludicrous.
- Marina's best friend in Saban's Adventures of the Little Mermaid is a seahorse (in a setting where all marine predator animals are evil).
- Species that evolve without predators are indeed often very docile. The Dodo of Mauritius evolved on an island without predators and was noted for having no fear or aggression toward humans, who promptly ate them into extinction.
- Some species of herbivore play this straight with each other, roaming in multi-species herds. Usually this is a sign that their dietary preferences are slightly different (e.g. grass vs. shrubs), and that each species in the group has a different well-developed sense (scent, hearing, sight) with which to detect herd members' mutual predators. Less competition, more chance to pick up on danger that way.