Reduced to Ratburgers
Lenina Huxley: Just don't ask them where the meat comes from.There are few better ways (short of No Party Like a Donner Party) to demonstrate that a human character is desperate for food than to reduce him to eating rats. Although such animals are technically edible, their association with disease, garbage and urban decay places them firmly on the "Unclean/Do Not Eat" list in most viewers' minds. This also applies for mice, cockroaches, dump-foraging seagulls, urban feral pigeons, mangy strays and other scrounging pests, although their small size makes some of these creatures unlikely candidates for Meal of Last Resort. Commonly seen in After the End scenarios or during prolonged military sieges. Also Played for Laughs in cases where characters are simply too poor to afford even dog food. If rats are being eaten by creatures that normally subsist on small mammal prey, rather than people who do so only reluctantly, then it's Alien Lunch. Eat That applies if the eating is done to win a bet or game show rather than survive. May be inverted when a Squeaking Carpet or Rodents of Unusual Size are involved. Usually an alternative to Eat the Dog, another way to showcase characters' famished need to eat whatever they can get ... although if it's a pet rat that gets eaten, the two can overlap. It should be noted that rat is a delicacy in some countries (see Real Life, below), which is potentially a different trope altogether. Sister trope to I Ate WHAT?, in which disgusting things that aren't even nominally food are eaten.
John Spartan: Huxley, what's that supposed to mean?
Lenina Huxley: Do you see any cows around here, detective?
John Spartan: Huxley, what's that supposed to mean?
Lenina Huxley: Do you see any cows around here, detective?
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Anime and Manga
- The "Gateway Shuffle" episode of Cowboy Bebop revolves around ecoterrorists trying to stop the harvest of Sea Rats. Once something only eaten by desperate Ganymede colonists, it became a gourmet food when interplanetary shipping became more reliable.
Spike: And is it tasty?
Jet: It's totally disgusting. People eat it anyway for status, it's "in" now.
- One is left to draw one's own parallels to Japan's steadly decreasing consumption of whale meat, which was a staple in the postwar Japanese diet until agriculture and meat imports became more reliable.
- It also works as a reference to lobster, which was considered a desperation food for slaves and the poor as late as the nineteenth century (much like salmon). Amusingly enough, Spike actually orders lobster after finding out the Sea Rat tastes awful.
- In Judge Dredd, rats, along with certain grubs and insects, have become the primary source of protein for humans in Mega-City One.
- During The Day The Law Died, Dredd's resistance take refuge in the Undercity and eat a meal Fergie cooks for them. They debate which animal it is, guessing squirrel. Fergie laughs noting that rats are the only animals in the Undercity.
- The Fabulous Furry Freak Brothers - Franklin and Phineas are appalled when Fat Freddy takes their food money and buys a shotgun to hunt with. Freddy, who's never used a gun in his life, insists he'll eat everything he kills. While playing with the gun in the apartment he drops it, and it goes off, killing a rat in the ceiling. The other two hold him to his promise (at gunpoint!)
- Actually an important plot point in the last arc of the original Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles Mirage comics. Splinter has fallen down a hole and can't move anywhere due to breaking his ankle. He's watched over by the mysterious Rat King, who refuses to directly help him. Eventually, Splinter snaps and takes a bite out of a rat near him. This is portrayed as a moment of enlightenment, and the Rat King helps him afterwards.
- Averted in All-Star Batman & Robin, the Boy Wonder. Batman wants Dick Grayson (age 12) to do this, presumably to toughen him up, but once Batman leaves, Alfred brings him McDonald's to eat instead. Alfred's dialogue to Batman following this implies that Batman reduced himself to rats willingly as part of his training.
Films — Animated
- In The Last Unicorn, the bandits complain that Molly keeps serving them rat soup.
"At least she could use a different rat!"
- In the 2010 film based on Yogi Bear, Yogi, accustomed to eating only "pic-a-nic" lunches, is forced to "rough it" and tries eating worms instead. It goes about as well as you'd expect.
Films — Live-Action
- Towards the end of Grave Encounters, Lance (graphically) kills and eats a rat, having been in the endless subterranean tunnels for who knows how long.
- In Never Cry Wolf, the naturalist tests whether a wolf-sized animal can really survive eating only rodent-sized prey by catching and eating the arctic mice and voles that keep infesting his campsite.
- Used in at least one movie version of Cyrano de Bergerac to illustrate that the defenders of a besieged fortress are completely out of food.
- In Time Bandits, Vermin catches and eats a live rat when the characters are imprisoned. Of course, he eats anything.
- The subterranean "scraps" who live in the tunnels under San Angeles in Demolition Man eat rat meat. After the hero finds out what the burger he just bought is, he merely shrugs, says it's the best burger he's had in years (having spent those years in cryo-sleep)... and keeps eating it (not just when in sight of the woman he got it from, he can be seen finishing it in the next scene).
- In a desperate attempt to keep costs down, the main characters in the Death Nurse duology start secretly feeding the patients staying at their clinic rats from the basement.
- In Threads, Ruth Beckett barters for dead rats in the months after nuclear war. All the while, there's a Standard Life insurance company's advertisement behind them.
- In Heavyweights, the protagonists put together a video showing the kids' parents just how horrifying Tony's weight loss regimen really is, including a scene of one kid pretending to devour a (fake) rat. One character worries if they went too far, with another commenting that he thought it was a nice touch.
- In Sherlock Holmes: A Game of Shadows, Sim serves Watson and Holmes, in Holmes' own words, "the best hedgehog goulash I have ever tasted" during their stay at the Gypsy camp. Watson quickly loses his appetite after hearing that, causing Holmes to scold him for being such a poor dinner guest, especially since hedgehog is actually regularly served in Roma cuisine.
- While Major Payne was wasting away in a hotel room as part of a scene spoofing Apocalypse Now, his voiceover laments of how hungry he was for violence and excitement. Then he catches sight of a rat skittering across the floor and his VO adds "Hell, I was just plain hungry!". Cue the grilled rat-on-a-stick.
- In the opening of The Mummy Returns, The Rock catches and eats a live scorpion when he's starving in the desert. At least raw scorpions taste almost exactly like raw, unshelled shrimp once you get over the Squick factor, and they are safe as long as you don't eat the tail.
- Although it's implied to be less starvation than a test from Anubis.
- In Terminator Salvation, Kyle serves Marcus meat from a ruins-scavenging coyote.
- And rats are shown being caught for food in the first The Terminator film.
- In Battlefield Earth, Terl allows some of the human slaves (including the hero) out in the wild to see what they will consume as food, as he doesn't know what humans like to eat. The only edible animals they find are rats, so that's what they eat, but Terl believes it was their preferred meal.
- Played with in Jungle 2 Jungle, Mimi, being raised by an amazonian tribe, gives a beggar who is asking for food since he hasn't eaten anything a dead pigeon, telling him "Eat".
- In O Brother, Where Art Thou?, Pete and Delmar find a "whole gopher village" and proceed to cook some up. Everett doesn't seem very enticed by the notion of eating rodent.
- In the 2008 Zombie Apocalypse film Descendents, young Camille has been wandering for days with little food, so collects some worms and pillbugs from under a rock and eats them.
- In the intro to Mad Max: Fury Road, Max crushes a two-headed lizard with his boot and immediately eats it. Later on, when Nux sees a large beetle crawling on him, he grabs it and eats it.
- In Snowpiercer, the protein bars that the Tail-enders have been subsisting on for 17 years turn out to be made from ground-up cockroaches.
- In the epilogue of Almost Night, the hobo Lekoogex compliments Jim on sleeping behind The Silver Club, commenting that bar fed rats are the best.
- Vetinari is briefly suspected of eating rats in Feet of Clay, when he's being poisoned by unknown means and the Watch learns that rats have been dying from the same poison.
- In Guards! Guards!, he's stuck in the dungeon, but he doesn't have to eat the rats. He sends the rats out to find food for him, having earned their allegiance by giving them advice in their war with the snakes and scorpions.
- The same book also Inverts this as the Dwarf restaurant owner, Gimlet, apparently was unable to afford real rat a couple of times, and was caught substituting chicken or even beef. (The gnome rat-catcher charges too much for real, trap-fresh rat.) Of course, for Discworld dwarfs rat meat is the preferred type of meat, especially with ketchup.
- Occasional human characters have been seen dining on rat-based dwarf cuisine.
- Also, in Maskerade there's a reference to how, if people were reduced to eating cockroaches by a catastrophe, the snooty proprietor of a dress shop would still use a napkin to do so.
- In The Fifth Elephant, Vimes (wrongly) assumes that the Diet of Bugs was an example of this trope. (It's a reference to the historical Diet of Worms, also not an example.)
- Scallot, the multiple-amputee quartermaster from Monstrous Regiment, has played this trope straight so often that he now prefers rat meat over other kinds.
- From the same book, Sergeant Jackrum buys a bottle of moonshine which he identifies by smell as being made from fermented rat.
- One band-member in Soul Music mentions he would use that flute that attracts rats to anybody playing on it, since he was getting hungry.
- In Guards! Guards!, he's stuck in the dungeon, but he doesn't have to eat the rats. He sends the rats out to find food for him, having earned their allegiance by giving them advice in their war with the snakes and scorpions.
- World War Z:
- The small dog rescued by one of the interviewees was adopted by a family, and kept them fed through the winter by killing rats for the stewpot.
- The men on the ISS eked out their food supply by killing and eating the lab rats.
- In Fly Trap (sequel to Fly By Night), the city of Toll is divided into two parts, lucky Toll by Day and impoverished Toll by Night. When one wealthy character in the day city complains about a blockade keeping her from having chocolate, the Mosca tries to wake her up by saying that she may be running low on chocolate, but in the night city they've even run out of rats, and have started cooking owls and sparrows (and paying a high cost for them!)
- In The Stand, Lloyd Henreid, a plague-survivor trapped in his cell at a prison where everyone else has died or fled hoards a dead rat, which he plans to eat if no one comes to let him out. He eventually resorts to eating it.
- In the Aubrey-Maturin series, sailors are known to eat rats when food is scarce at sea. "Only we call 'em millers to make 'em eat better."
- In two of the Bloody Jack books, due to kidnapping-related circumstances, the main character and her fellow captives capture rats to supplement their pitiful rations. In both books, they're called "millers" for the same reason as above.
- In A Song of Ice and Fire, Stannis Baratheon and his troops were reduced to eating rats during a long-term siege. They were in serious danger of starving to death until smuggler Davos Seaworth secretly managed to bring in supplies, mostly onions, earning himself a knighthood. This also gave him his nickname "The Onion Knight."
- And in A Dance with Dragons, Theon is reduced to eating rats in Ramsay Bolton's dungeon.
- Averted by the Rat-Speakers in Neverwhere, who revere such rodents far too much to even contemplate eating them, so they dine on stray cats instead.
- Later in the book, Richard orders curry for the gang from a stall. There are two options - meat curry and vegetable curry. Richard asks what the meat is - cue him quickly deciding upon the vegetable. What type of meat it was is never revealed.
- Before the beginning of The Curse Of Chalion, Cazaril is in a siege where, when he's telling the story, he claims that not a rat was left unroasted within the besieged castle. Later in the book, he needs a rat for an illegal spell he wants to perform, so he exploits the fact that this is common knowledge and sends a page to catch one for him, claiming that he developed a taste for them during the siege and he's going to eat it.
- In Lucifer's Hammer, the survivors of the cometary strike supplement their limited diet through a harsh winter by raising and eating rats as food animals.
- In Anne Rice's Interview with the Vampire, newly turned Louis couldn't stomach the idea of feeding upon humans, so he feeds upon rats instead. This was mocked by his sire Lestat, who considered him a coward and a weakling because of it.
Lestat: All I need to find you, Louis, is follow the corpses of rats!
- One of the early Shadowrun novels is told from a city ork's point of view, and mentions his distaste for cat meat, which local ork kids hunt down in the alleys of the Barrens.
- In Harry Potter, Sirius mentions having to eat rats and other stuff while on the run from the ministry. At least it could be said that being in dog form while doing so would make it more bearable, but he still chomps on the food the kids bring him when they meet.
- In Harry Turtledove's Homeward Bound (the last novel in the Worldwar series), astronaut Glen Johnson notices that his shredded meat sandwich tastes funny and, after thinking about the fact that the ship hasn't received supplies in several decades, decides he doesn't want to know what kind of meat it is. He suspects it's probably guinea pig, though.
- In Jeff Long's Year Zero, Nathan Lee must trudge down a mountain in Nepal after being pushed off a ledge and abandoned without supplies. Passing through an area infested with leeches, he pulls them off his ankles and eats them to keep his strength up.
- Referenced frequently in The Hunger Games, where the starving people of District 12 are willing to eat most kinds of animals, including mice, rats, squirrels, and dogs (says one shopkeeper: "Once it's in the soup, I'll call it beef").
- Most of the world is said to have resorted to this trope during the Collapse that pre-dated Simon Hawke's Wizard of novels.
- In Iron Council, the Pretty Brigade is said to have had nothing to eat but stale bread and rat meat in the days leading up to their last stand in Howl Barrow.
- In the Stephen King short story "Survivor Type", the protagonist is stranded on a deserted island with water, a sewing kit, a first aid kit, a few kilos of heroin...and no food. He is reduced to eating raw gulls, crabs, a spider, and eventually himself.
- In Animorphs, Tobias is a nothlit, stuck in the form of a red-tailed hawk. Naturally he hunts and eats rodents, the natural prey of his new body. He's okay with that. But at one point he finds himself reduced to eating roadkill, and finds it disgusting and humiliating (especially since Rachel catches him doing it).
- Initially he was opposed to eating rodents at all, wanting to still eat human food to stay sane. Eventually however, he comes to accept that he is a hawk now and has to eat as such.
- In Reliquary, Mephisto, the leader of the homeless, feeds the disguised Agent Pendergast roasted rat (referred to as "track rabbit") as a sign of hospitality, and as a test to see if he was who he claimed to be.
- After their crash in The Silver Gryphon, Blade and Tad put their survival training to use, dining on everything from rodents to insects.
- Referenced in the first Horatio Hornblower novel written, when one Plucky Middie at Captain Hornblower's table accidentally says the dinner will save them some money on rats. Hornblower feigns surprise at the high price rats are going for compared to when he was a midshipman, a ploy to appear more human in their eyes—even though he had never actually been forced to that, he knew enough about the phenomenon to invoke the trope.
- In Half Past Human by T.J.Bass, Earth has a three trillion population living in underground cities. In order to feed them, all the surface is devoted to automatic farming, animals have been exterminated as much as possible, so the only meat available is either this trope... or somewhat processed human protein.
- Merlin has "It's rat...", starting with an episode where Camelot is experiencing famine and Merlin makes a rat that was chewing up Arthur's clothes into a stew that he serves to the prince. And when Arthur realizes where the meat came from he makes Merlin eat it instead.
- Sometimes contemplated, or even done for real, by participants in reality game shows such as Survivor or The Colony.
- In the latter example the colonists actually made a rat farm at one point.
- Serious wilderness-survival shows often recommend use of this trope under dire circumstances.
- Buffy the Vampire Slayer: In his lowest moments after having his soul returned, Angel subsisted on rat blood. Part of his Vegetarian Vampire-ness.
- Vyvyan on The Young Ones once found a dead rat in the stewpot, and (being Vyvyan) promptly ate it.
- Moving house, Mike once discovered Buddy Holly hanging from a parachute in his new bedroom. Holly claimed to have been stuck there for over two decades, eating any bugs that came within reach.
- In Blackadder Goes Forth, Baldrick has cooked "rat au vin", which turns out to be a rat that's been run over by a van.
- Baldrick from Black Adder II found his boss eating leeches on his doctor's orders, and offered him a fat spider he'd been saving for his own meal. Another episode saw him hanging cheese from his face in order to lure mice into his mouth.
- On Highlander: The Series, an immortal who was marooned on a deserted island with no food was reduced to catching and eating flies in his desperation.
- Monty Python's Flying Circus' "Church Police" sketch has the family's choice of desserts - rat cake, rat sorbet, rat pudding, or strawberry tart. Which has some rat in it. Three. Rather a lot, really.
- On CSI: NY, the Rat Fisherman claimed he might eat his catch if he were hungry enough, although he may have been yanking the investigators' chain.
- On Boardwalk Empire, Nucky once got some Moral Guardians to sympathize with him by claiming he'd grown up so poor, he'd had to resort to this trope. This may or may not be true.
- In Forever Knight, vampires live off the blood of whatever kind of creature they first tasted after being vamped. Usually that's humans, but there are occasional animal-drinkers, known as carouches; the recurring character Screed had the bad luck to get stuck with rats.
- Non-starvation literal example: A bitter man on Bones tricked his divorce lawyer into eating ratburgers once a week in a private act of revenge.
- The little bald boy who's really a child Observer from Fringe is implied to have lived off rats, bugs, and moss scrounged in the tunnel where he was found.
- The preview to How I Met Your Mother's last season showed Ted's children future children who, having been listening to Ted tell his story for the last eight years, survived with the help of a spider farm they cultivated in a "World's Best Dad" mug.
- In Game of Thrones, Stannis Baratheon remembers this happening during The Siege that made him a notable general.
First we ate the horses. We weren't riding anywhere, not with the castle surrounded, and we couldn't feed them, so fine, the horses. Then we ate the cats. Never liked cats, so fine. I do like dogs. Good, loyal animals. We ate them too. Then the rats... the night before you slipped through (smuggling food) I thought my wife was going to die. She wouldn't speak anymore, she had gotten so frail...
- While in the slums of King's Landing, Arya Stark caught and killed a pigeon. However, she changed her mind and unsuccessfully tried to sell it to a cook.
- On Supernatural, the feral girl from "Human Remains" breaks a rat's neck and eats it. It's implied that eating rats and stolen pets is how she and her twin brother survived for years.
- Unsurprisingly Horrible Histories has done several sketches about the various unappetising things people have been reduced to eating over the centuries. For example, one Historical Masterchef had a First World War soldier eating the lice he plucked out of his clothing, which visibly squicked the hosts.
- Dark Matter has a scene where the crew have lunch at a space station, and find out the burgers are made from mealworms.
- "Rats on a Budget" is a novelty song by Heat N Serve, staged as a commercial for an ultra-cheap fast food chain with an all-rodent menu. The video garnered a lot of (queasy) laughs on MTV's "Basement Tapes" and the Dr Demento show.
- The Rasputina song "Rats" is about a community of starving Bolivians who convince the Pope to categorize rats as fish, so that they can justify eating the horse-sized local rodents come Friday.
Newspaper Comics & Magazine Comics
- A The New Yorker cartoon once depicted an author writing about "blockade mutton". If a city has been blockaded long enough, the locals will be reduced to eating dog. At one point, his research fails him, but after a trip to a pet store and a (flexible) restaurant, he returns to his desk and types, "It is tough, gamey, and strong-flavored".
- One The Far Side cartoon depicted a couple cowboys eating stew. One of them pulls a live lizard out of his bowl while his friend (who has a mouthful of stew) looks on in horror. Their cook is surprised, saying that the egg-beater must have missed that one.
- In one early Dilbert storyline, Dilbert runs afoul of his company's Accounting department which is run by literal trolls. While Dilbert is suspended upside-down over a boiling pot, one troll berates him for spending nearly ten dollars a day on meals during a business trip. The troll claims that, according to company policy, Dilbert should have stunned pigeons with his briefcase and fried them up with his travel iron. Dilbert claims that he tried, but it was taking so long. The troll suggests that he use the "Wool" setting on his iron next time.
- This mock Public Service Announcement (in Spanish) from the now-defunct Mexican radio station, Radioactivo 98.5, which advises to "feed yourself well" during the Easter Vigil when you have to avoid red meat by instead eating rat meat, also listing rat "dishes" and mentioning that rats are "Besides being abundant in proteins, carbohydrates and poor neighborhoods, they are also economical and easy to acquire: You just need a broom and a dustpan... or simply just a shoe. Look in your closest sewer! Streets are full of rats! And to avoid the disgust, first shave your rat and decorate it with tomato slices, sprinkle it with sesame and for the elegant touch put an olive in its snout".
- In B4: The Lost City, a classic adventure for Basic Dungeons & Dragons, the underground city's meat supplies come from farming giant rats and giant cave crickets.
- Rat-on-a-stick is a quite common wasteland snack in the world of the post-apocalyptic game Mutant Future.
- The darklord Monette, from Ravenloft, contracted lycanthropy by catching and eating infected bats after he was shipwrecked on an island with no other food.
- In Sweeney Todd: The Demon Barber of Fleet Street, a variant of the trope occurs with the meat shortage driving some pie-shop owners to use their neighbors' cats and other poor animals as pie-filling. When Mrs. Lovett, one pie-shop owner, comes across the title vengeance-driven barber, his first murder and his vow to "practice on less honorable throats" following his failure to kill Judge Turpin spark a ghoulish idea as to how to get her business back on track.
- Discussed in Cave Story, which gives us this gem of a line:
- In Dwarf Fortress, your dwarves will hunt vermin for food if they go hungry for too long.
- One the tapes left behind by the Jackal in Far Cry 2 is a recording of him recalling the time he spent in a prison. One of the inmates had to catch a live rat and crush it to death with his teeth because the guards had him handcuffed 24/7 and refused to feed him. The inmate died three days later, because of the horror of what he became.
- In Metal Gear Solid 3: Snake Eater, when imprisoned, stripped and with no food, you have a Fork (that automatically causes Snake to eat anything edible you stab with it) and a low Stamina gauge (which denotes your level of hunger). There is also a very conspicuous rat running around in your cell. Which respawns every so often when you do the obvious. Which is a good thing, as Snake finds it much tastier (hence, more stamina regained) than anything the guard will bother to feed him (especially considering a live rat is as fresh as can be, while food from the guard is always already rotten).
- Within Vampire: The Masquerade – Bloodlines, your character can catch and eat rats for blood supply (which is helpful when the humans about the map won't go into a dark corner, or if you're in a combat map with no humans in sight, like the LA Sewers), though some (mainly Ventrue, who are the most elitist of the Camarilla clans) might vomit the blood back up out of disgust. For Nosferatu, who break The Masquerade just by being seen, this may be your only source of blood, and they gain more blood from the act than other vampire types.
- One of the creepiest locales in Dark Fall: Lost Souls is the abandoned train station's cafe, which the street person Mr. Bones has "redecorated" with mannequins, refuse, and menus re-written to offer various stray pets and vermin as dinner items. Dirty dishes and pans in the cafe's kitchenette strongly imply that he's been cooking rats, pigeons, and other urban wildlife for himself.
- Planescape: Torment has a street vendor who sells cooked cranium rats (Hive Mind rats that become intelligent, malevolent spellcasters when there are enough of them in one area) - boiled, fried, and roasted. Your Player Character can try these, and finds the fried one quite delicious.
- In Minecraft, you may find yourself reduced to poisonous zombie flesh if you don't have access to a source of fresh meat. This is a pretty desperate situation in the Overworld, though, given all you need for a cooked fish is wood, stone, and spider silk. In the Nether, rotten meat dropped by zombie pigmen is the only naturally occurring source of food which can be eaten without extra resources, and is often the last resort of a lost traveler who has exhausted the food they brought with them. Though of course, attack a zombie pigman and hunger will be the least of your problems.
- Fallout 2 has rats as a perfectly natural source of meat. The PC can even barter recipes at one point.
- Fallout 3 and Fallout: New Vegas also feature giant, mutated versions of mole rats, cockroaches, and ants, among other critters. All can be harvested for meat, and in New Vegas, can be cooked into what are evidently satisfying meals. Bloatfly sliders, anyone?
- Otis, the prisoner in The Secret Of Monkey Island, complains constantly about how there's usually nothing for him to eat but rats. Played for laughs, since he does have a piece of carrot cake his Aunt Tillie made, but he can't stand carrot cake.
- Subverted in RuneScape. The giant rats are so big you can carve steaks off of them.
- In Blood, Caleb comes across a fryer in an early level. Pressing the action button causes him to quip "Mmmmm! Ratburgers!"
- Fallen London, in a vast cavern deep underground, has rats on strings as resources. They're seen as much more appetizing than the horse tripe sold similarly.
- Kai in Heavenly Sword sadly says that she was alone once, "I ate cockroaches, yuck". Yet at the start of the previous chapter she quite happily ate a worm after describing them as tasty (not even a supposedly nutritious grub but a big ol' common earthworm).
- In the After the End setting of Metro 2033 and Metro: Last Light, rats have become a staple food for the surviving humans living in the Moscow Metro. Venice Station in Last Light even has a shooting gallery where live rats are used as targets, and then promptly served at the local barbecue. Denizens of the same station also eat the huge, bug-like Shrimp mutants that swim in the murky waters surrounding it— Fedor the fisherman remarks that they taste great with beer.
- The people living in Boston in The Last of Us at the start of the game can be seen waiting in line for grilled rats, some of them apparently standing there for hours.
- In This War of Mine, this trope is taken quite literally. The player can build and set out traps for small animals, usually rats, to be used as food. However, they require bait that could also be used to get food, and they have an unpredictable time to catch anything. Often several traps would be ideal, but that requires ever more resources to build them, turning even this into a difficulty.
- Dragon Age: Origins: City elves live in abject poverty, so they sometimes need to get creative with what to put on their plates. The Denerim Alienage's Shianni has her own special "Rabbit Stew," made with rats.
Shianni: "Rabbits of the city," cousin. If that doesn't sound delicious, you've been away from home too long.
- In Metro2033, rats are a staple food for the denizens of the Moscow Metro 20 years after the world ended. However, other food sources exist, such as pigs, chickens and mushrooms, the latter of which is grown in compost piles and are used to create a wide variety of food, including tea and vodka.
- Freefall has (so far) two characters that enjoy the delights of entomological cookery (bug-eating): in the case of Sam Starfall, it's not clear how much of it is Alien Lunch as a result of being a squid in a suit and how much is his natural scavenger instincts. With vet Winston Thurmad it's a conscious dietary choice based on the fact that insects are healthier for you- high protein, low fat, and aside from haemovorous species, aren't likely to carry pathogens that affect humans. And of course, soon after Florence the Bowman's wolf joined the crew the ship's rat population suddenly diminished.
- Part of the reason Gargamel goes after The Smurfs. And when he can't have Smurfs to eat, he has to eat slime soup.
- In Star Wars: Clone Wars, Anakin had a lunch of a bag full of bugs.
- Almost happens in the Les Misérables parody Les Miseranimals in an episode of Animaniacs. Set right before the French Revolution, the Keeper Of the Cats (the man in charge of tending the pound for stray cats) can no longer get meat for his restaurant, and plans to resort to using the cats for cooking. The cats are broken out by "Runt Valrunt" before he has a chance to, though.
- When Homer from The Simpsons gets Springfield split into two different cities due to a feud over a changed area code, he becomes mayor over New Springfield, which quickly becomes a collapsing mess. When the citizens asks how theyre going to get food, due to the roads being blocked by their rivals in Old Springfield, Homer says "Now, the following breeds of dog are edible-". He doesnt get further as every single person in New Springfield jumps the wall and ditches him.
- Several species of wild rat are eaten in Africa and Asia as bush meat.
- "Bwana, they're delicious roasted!" - opening line of "Jungle Doctor On The Hop", overlapping with literature.
- Subverted by stuffed dormice, which were a coveted delicacy in ancient Rome and other cultures.
- Rats were considered standard fare for the Plucky Middie in the age of Wooden Ships and Iron Men.
- Sailors called them "blockade mutton."
- In a Real Life variant blending this trope with Eat the Dog, some poor Italians during World War II were forced to eat cats, whether strays or pets, in order to survive. In particular, people from Vicenza are still mockingly called "Magnagati" (Cat Eaters) at times.
- Also done in Britain at the time, where alley-cats were nicknamed "roof rabbits" to make them sound more palatable.
- Like Britain, Japan was a food-importing Empire heavily dependent on its colonies to supply it with agricultural products - more so than Britain, in fact. By mid-1945, with the entire merchant fleet either sunk or unable to move for lack of fuel and the Allied blockade, large swathes of the population were actually living over the brink of starvation with an average per-citizen intake of 1200 calories (of a required 2000). Articles in the government-sponsored womens' magazines told readers how to pad out bread with sawdust, catch mice, frogs, birds and insects for eating. If Japan hadn't surrendered when it did and Operation Downfall had been executed, it's likely that most of the resultant ten-to-twenty million estimated Nipponese civilian fatalities would've been due to malnutrition and related diseases and accidents - it's not the starving that kills you, much of the time.
- During the Siege of Paris by the Prussians in 1871, many of the city's finest restaurants put cat, pigeon, and rat on the menu. Even the zoo elephants were eaten.
- In poorer cities, some homeless people still catch and eat rats. In some English-speaking areas, one euphemism, related to the above about cats, nicknames rats caught in subway tunnels "track rabbits."
- Rats (and we are talking about the species known for being pests, not "smeerps") are commonly eaten in some parts of China and India, but they are often farm-raised rather than taken off the streets.
- Clans of Indian rat-catchers, who are treated as outcasts due to the squalid nature of their work, have been known to resort to this trope to reduce expenses on food and thus afford a good education, and better life, for their kids.
- Some years ago, there was a food scare in Jakarta, Indonesia, when a TV station aired a story claiming that some local noodle sellers were making their meatballs out of rat. A large group of noodle sellers subsequently picketed the TV station because they'd lost business as a result. (The usual ingredient for Indonesian bakso meatballs, by the way, is beef.)
- When the first Survivor season contestants ate rats on the island, the audience actually felt that they should be prohibited from doing so, not because of the Squick factor, but because, being a game show, they didn't actually need the rats to survive.
- Some projects are underway introducing rodents and similar animals as livestock to impoverished third-world countries, since they can live on relatively little and breed like mice, providing an easy source of meat and garden fertilizer. This is, after all, exactly why guinea pigs and rabbits were domesticated in the first place; both rabbits (in the Old World) and guinea pigs (in South America) produce lots of meat at low cost, and guinea pigs in particular are the primary target of the aforementioned efforts to expand meat production in poor countries.
- Concentration-camp prisoners in WWII, confined without food in squalid barracks, would eat the lice that infested their cots and bodies. That's right, there was so little food, even the rats had moved out.
- One nutritionist consulting for NASA in the '60s recommended that potential Mars expeditions bring cages of mice as edible livestock, reasoning that such Explosive Breeder rodents could generate high-protein food more efficiently than conventional meat animals.
- The nutria is a large rodent, native to South America and an invasive pest to North American wetlands, with bounties offered for harvesting them. State and local government have campaigned to create a market for their meat, but with limited success, so we can't expect them in restaurants soon. But they are a viable food option for residents of the poor, rural swamp counties and parishes, and yield a good deal more meat per head than rats.
- The related capybara—the largest rodent in the world—was historically sought out by European colonists in South America for its meat. Why? Because, based on the description they sent to The Pope, the semi-aquatic capybara was certified as a "fish" for the purposes of Lenten fasting. You can bet they loved that opportunity to eat red meat during Lent, even if it did come from a giant rat...
- One of the key tips on wilderness survival is to find and eat earthworms since they're a safe and readily accessible source of essential protein, DESPITE the fact that they're raw and alive...
- The annual Wild Foods Festival, held in New Zealand's West Coast region, features this among its edible fare.