Sapient Eat Sapient

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"If I'm gonna eat somebody, it might as well be you."
Lou the Goanna, FernGully: The Last Rainforest

Please note that all sapient beings are sentient, but not all sentient beings are sapient.

On the Sliding Scale of Anthropomorphism, one of the first aspects to be added and the last to be removed is sapience. Whether they walk on two legs or four, whether they speak human or animal, an anthropomorphized animal will show some level of human intelligence. So when a sapient being is intending to eat another sapient being, a certain kind of drama arises.

While this does not strictly count as cannibalism, (such as a talking wolf eating a talking sheep), anthropomorphism by definition puts a character on a level of humanity that the audience is meant to identify with. An intelligent animal ceases to be an environmental hazard and becomes a character; a person. "That bear is trying to eat that rabbit" transitions very quickly to "That man is trying to eat that little girl" when the audience identifies with both bear and rabbit. This makes a very short road to Predators Are Mean, particularly if the predator takes the time to taunt its prey with their intended fate, or if they decide to be 'sporting' and invoke Hunting the Most Dangerous Game. People will naturally wonder why are sapient animals any different in rights than humans and predators will come across as consciously cruel if not outright sadistic for knowingly killing creatures with the same rights as them.

There are generally three scenarios where this trope can come into play, based on the involvement of humanity:

  • In a world run by humans with Nearly Normal Animals or Civilized Animals, only the audience will be informed of the animals' intelligence, and blatant Animal Talk will prevent human and animal from speaking. (Barring perhaps a precocious vegetarian child who Speaks Fluent Animal.) This can add an element of drama to the animals' plight; if they could just get the humans to understand, maybe they wouldn't be killed and eaten.
  • In a setting where humans are either completely nonexistent, or not directly involved, or are otherwise placed alongside Funny Animals, Petting Zoo People, and any manner of humanoid creatures and aliens. This puts all prospective predators and prey on an near-to-level playing field in their given society. Predator and prey can carry on full conversations about how one considers the other fully edible, no matter how they protest. More sympathetic characters can at least go the route of saying that friends are not food, and only strangers are acceptable meals.
  • If humans are ever the designated prey, two sister tropes can also occur. I'm a Humanitarian is when humans are textbook cannibals, eating other humans. To Serve Man is when some other species is preying on humanity.

Often a result of Carnivore Confusion or Let's Meet the Meat. See also Predation Is Natural, which is often used in conjunction with this trope in examples where predators are sympathetic.

Contrast Vegetarian Carnivore, Furry Confusion, and No Cartoon Fish, which each can be used as methods to avert this trope in Carnivore Confusion-type situations.

Examples:

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    Anime & Manga 
  • Arashi no Yoru ni revolves around this issue. A goat named Mei befriends a wolf named Gabu. Their friendship is considered against nature and the two end up running away together in order to avoid their family's scorn. Most of the drama revolves around Gabu's need to eat meat and his temptation to eat Mei. Gabu tries to become Vegetarian Carnivore but, being a wolf, he ultimately needs to hunt behind Mei's back. This horrifies Mei, but he later tells Gabu to eat him in order to avoid starvation during a blizzard. Gabu refuses to.

    Fan Works 
  • Every Pokémon in We Are All Pokémon Trainers is perfectly sapient, and the predatory ones will indeed kill for their food. The prevailing view amongst predators apart from Law of the Jungle-esque ethics while hunting is to mainly aim for jerks and not to revel in the kill.

    Film - Animation 
  • All Dogs Go to Heaven. King Gator is set to eat both Charlie and Anne-Marie...until Charlie's nearly-final howl prompts a (nay, THE) Big Lipped Alligator Moment. King Gator then goes on to eat Carface at the end of the climax.
  • An American Tail: Cats, mice, dogs, rats, and pigeons are all capable of interacting in their Mouse World, but the cats still plot and scheme to eat the mice, even if it involves building a giant mousetrap.
  • Chicken Run: The Largely Normal Chickens start out as strictly egg-laying hens, until they stop producing. But even that won't save them once Mrs. Tweedy decides chicken pot pies are more profitable. Even once the chickens have constructed elaborate machinery to escape, she remains resolute as ever to turn them all into mincemeat.
  • FernGully: The Last Rainforest: A purple goanna lizard (possibly named Lou), sings an entire song to a miniature human about how he is going to eat him.
  • Finding Nemo:
    • Nearly all under-water creatures, from krill to whales, are sapient. This, of course, includes the carnivores. Our protagonists happen upon a group of sharks who have vowed never to eat fish again, and view the desire as a Horror Hunger. They're fine with eating dolphins, though. The barracuda and the angler fish, on the other hand, seem to show no sign of sapience.
    • Nigel the pelican regularly has conversations with the fish who live in a dentist's office, but also apologizes to Nemo in case he "took a snap at [him] at one time". He also would have been fine letting Marlin or Dory get eaten by seagulls until he learns that Marlin is Nemo's father.
  • Free Birds: Turkeys resort to screwing with time to escape being slaughtered every November by humans.
  • The Great Mouse Detective: While the dog and cat of the movie are portrayed as Almost Normal Animals, Felicia follows Ratigan's orders on who she is and is not supposed to eat, even if he changes his mind mid-mastication.
  • Ice Age
    • The smilodons start out just wanting to eat that baby, but they quickly plan on having mammoth (and sloth) for dinner as well once Manny takes guardianship of the child.
    • Manny only seems to get truly upset with Carl and Frank when they say they're not going to eat Sid after killing him. He states that this is because he doesn't like it when animals kill for no good reason.
  • The Land Before Time: Even without the giant, snarling Sharptooth, there are plenty of predators who can talk just as much as the protagonists while making their dinner plans.
  • The one-eyed weasel in Leafie, a Hen into the Wild is at first presented as an animalistic Big Bad but as the story goes on it becomes clear that she's just as sapient as everyone else. At the end Leafie lets herself be eaten so that the weasel can produce enough milk to feed her young. The weasel ends up crying as she attacks Leafie.
  • The Lion King:
    • Almost as soon as they're introduced, Scar tries to chow down on the king's majordomo, Zazu, after trying to do the same to a completely realistic mouse. Seeing as Mufasa is more concerned with Scar's absence from the previous musical number than finding his brother with a mouthful of hornbill, this is apparently a common incident.
    • The hyenas loudly make puns about eating Simba, Nala, and Zazu, right in front of their intended prey. Unfortunately, their dinner guests get the joke and run off while the hyenas crack wise.
    • Nala attempts to chase down and eat Pumbaa, yet both are perfectly content to be friends after Simba's intervention. This is immediately lampshaded by Timon, who's already uncomfortable with Simba's carnivorous tendencies.
  • Madagascar:
    • The first movie plays with Alex's instincts being awakened in the wild, to the point of inadvertently "biting [Marty's] butt!", despite being lifelong friends.
    • The second movie's climax has a group of stranded New Yorkers getting ready to roast and eat Alex, until they realize he's that lion thanks to a Signature Roar and Revealing Skill.
  • In Moana, the giant crab-monster Tamatoa has no qualms about eating the human heroine, the demigod Maui, or his own grandmother, and even gleefully sings about how he's going to do it.
  • Rock-A-Doodle
    • The Grand Duke has no qualms about eating a human boy, but transforms Edmund into a kitten as a matter of preference: "Kittens are more digestible."
    • The Duke and his overly-theatrical minions show delight at dining on the smaller sapient farm animals, waiting only for their only flashlight's batteries to die, and drawing out the process with an upbeat musical number about how they're going to be eaten while setting the table.
  • Shrek: While Dragon is The Voiceless through the entire franchise, she's plenty intelligent, and removes Farquad from the equation at the climax of the movie. He even sings Stayin' Alive in the after-party sequence while she holds the microphone against her stomach.
  • Vuk the Little Fox combines this with Protagonist-Centered Morality. Vuk is a sapient fox and The Hero; he eats equally sapient chickens, geese and ducks, but since he's the protagonist, nobody questions this morally.
  • Zootopia plays heavily with this trope. The animals don't actually eat each other... any more. Though they have made peace, just underneath the surface there is still a great deal of racial tension between the species that used to be predators and the ones that used to be prey.

     Film - Live Action 
  • Babe: It takes some help from the other animals on the farm, but Babe eventually figures out that humans eat the animals who don't have another job.

     Literature 
  • The Big Bad Wolf in the Three Little Pigs and other appearances often has conversations with his prey, both before and after revealing his intentions.
  • Charlotte's Web: Unlike Babe, who makes himself useful, Wilbur gets saved merely by having a benevolent spider crochet words above his pen to convince humans that he's too special to eat.
  • In the Discworld, the Amazing Maurice is a perfectly normal feral tomcat. Until he forages on the dump where wizards have discarded centuries of old magic and eats a rat who has been living on that particular dump. Having ignored a rat pleading with him not to eat it, Maurice acquires its sapience and ability to speak Human as a sort of unwelcome magically-assisted indigestion. Life then begins getting complicated - and profitable - for a cat who has realised sapient rats are now off the menu.
  • The Jungle Book
    • Both predators and prey are sapient; however, they both follow the Law of the Jungle which allows predators to eat their prey species when they are hungry. Predators Are Mean is averted: predators who keep the Law of the Jungle, such as the wolves or Bagheera, are good, and only predators who break it, such as Shere Khan and Tabaqui, are evil.
    • The story even has an example where the predator is the hero and the prey are the villains: the monkeys that kidnap Mowgli are the antagonists, and Kaa rescuing Mowgli by hypnotizing and eating the monkeys is treated as a heroic act.
  • Redwall: Even giant snakes like Asmodeus can wax poetic before trying to make a meal out of a talking mouse, rat, fox, etc.
  • In the poem "The Walrus and the Carpenter" in Through the Looking-Glass, the Walrus cheerfully convinces the oysters to come and take a walk with him, with the intention to eat all of them. The poem also made it to Disney's Alice in Wonderland, and is a surprisingly dark scene for a Disney movie, since the Walrus actually succeeds in eating the oysters.
  • The Chronicles of Narnia: Narnia contains both sapient and normal animals. Any sapient creature eating another sapient creature is considered cannibalism in-universe and an abomination (which some villains, like the Northern giants, are capable of).
  • In the Tuf Voyaging story "Guardians" human colonists on an oceanic world are threatened by a sudden plague of sea monsters that came out of nowhere. After some study of the sea monsters Haviland Tuf discovers that they are artificial, and they mostly appear in the same places as a limpet-like mollusc that the colonists call "mud-pots" and like boiled with melted butter. With the help of a psychic kitten Tuf confirms his hypothesis, the mud-pots were sapient and while they lacked the typical signs of civilization they were masters of genetic engineering.
  • It's implied in Warrior Cats that prey animals are sapient, though cats cannot speak with them and it is suggested that they are less intelligent (or at least more primal) than cats.

    Live-Action TV 
  • Dinosaurs: Everything in the family fridge is a smart-mouthed prey animal waiting to be eaten . Occasionally someone in the cast is in danger of being eaten by other dinosaurs, or other monsters even higher up on the food chain. About the only "animals" that don't talk are the cavemen, which normally aren't even considered for predation.

     Tabletop Games 
  • Dungeons & Dragons provides a weird example in the Beastlands. It is a neutral good afterlife where people attuned to nature are reincarnated as talking animals. Since they become part of the local ecosystem, they naturally hunt and kill each other, with neither prey nor predator thinking anything wrong with it. They will also cooperate to gang up on any outsiders who try to hunt them for sport.
  • In Myriad Song when carnivorous morphir plants are fed the brains of sentient animals they produce buds that can be smoked as a hallucinogen, with visions of the animal's memories. When morphir are fed brains from sapient animals they produce particularly potent buds, and eventually become sapient themselves, and mobile, and able to shapeshift into the beings whose brains they consume.

     Video Games 
  • Halo: Several of the Covenant's species are fully capable of eating each other, with the Jiralhanae/Brutes having a particularly bad reputation for eating their own subordinates. Halo 2 even implies that one common method of execution is feeding the condemned to Kig-Yar/Jackal prisoners.
    Grunt/Unggoy NPC: If hungry, eat Jackal!
  • Jak and Daxter. A legitimate worry for Daxter after becoming an ottsel, especially when a surly mechanic comments on how good he'd taste skinned and buttered.
  • The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild: It's possible for players to make Link cook Bokoblin livers...
  • Pokémon:
    • It's made clear in the games that Pokémon eat each other and that humans eat Pokémon. Pokémon on default are presented as sapient, with some even being able to talk (either through telepathy or actual talking). Adaptations such as the anime gloss over this element and present Pokémon as herbivores.
    • Subverted in the Pokémon Mystery Dungeon games. They take place in a world devoid of humans where Pokémon are portrayed as living in communities similarly to humans. The only foods characters are depicted eating are vegetarian stuff, such as berries and apples.
  • Starbound: Florans usually have few hangups about eating other sapients, up to and including other Florans. They are coming around, but the realization that others have thoughts, feelings and loved ones and that eating them might be wrong is considered a great feat of wisdom and a show of character. You can find a diary where the author makes this realization about his captive, and even though he still thinks they're different and not of the same level as himself, just the concept itself is enough to amaze him.

     Webcomics 
  • In Kevin & Kell the fact sapient carnivores must prey on sapient herbivores is accepted as a fact of life, although herbivores will take reasonable precautions to prevent it applying to them personally. One storyline was based around a body being discovered that hadn't been eaten, making it murder.
  • In 21st Century Fox pretty much every animal, including insects, is sapient. It was generally relegated to jokes like the fox main characters dealing with annoying bunny bellhops by eating them until one arc where the Supreme Court declared predation unconstitutional. Carnivores were required to eat Scientifically Produced Animal Matter grown in vats from tumors, which turned out to taste better than "real" meat so most continued to eat it after the ban was repealed.
  • Doc Rat initially dodged the question of what carnivores eat. But it eventually came to envelop the rest of the comic with a wolf character who married a rabbit and is attempting to start an anti-predation movement.
  • In Gene Catlow, Word of God establishes that animals often donate their bodies for meat, much like real-world organ donors.

    Web Originals 
  • In Orion's Arm, some polities, such as the Burning Hunger habitats in Sadalmelik, allow carnivorous sophonts to hunt and eat other sophonts. This being Orion's Arm civilized space, sophonts killed this way can simply be restored from backup. Indeed, many of these habitats have a brisk tourist business catering to those who wish to experience the hunt from either or both sides.
  • Played for Drama in Don't Hug Me I'm Scared. The ambiguously human Yellow Guy is forced to eat the remains of his aptly named friend, Duck Guy, in the fifth episode.

    Western Animation 
  • Aladdin: The Series: The Al Muddi are a race of man-eating mud-men, but the gap of apparent intelligence between the well-spoken sultan and the non-speaking grunts is considerable. Nonetheless, it's the sultan himself who seems most keen on having humans for supper.
  • In Babar The Hunter continues his effort to hunt animals even though it seems to be common knowledge that large animals are sentient and getting civilized.
  • Chip 'n Dale Rescue Rangers: Being a team comprised of rodents with a cat for their primary adversary, being devoured is a common danger from villains such as Fat Cat and Sewernose de Bergerac.
  • Father of the Pride: With the main characters being a family of lions, and a main character being a prairie-dog named Snack, predators eating civilized prey can take up the plot of entire episodes.
  • Futurama episode "The Problem with Popplers": Humans discover what they at first think is a delicious new meal and instead are the infants of a sapient alien species.
  • Looney Tunes uses this trope and uses it often.
    • Henery Hawk, plus any incidental family, are always trying to catch Foghorn Leghorn or the chickens on his farm for dinner.
    • Sylvester the Cat and Tweety Bird. Tweety taw a puddy tat, and will take the time to banter with him before evading being devoured.
    • The Tasmanian Devil (Taz). Being an Extreme Omnivore, Taz can and will consider making a meal out of any of the other toons that cross his path, be they man, bunny, duck, or otherwise.
    • Wile E Coyote And The Roadrunner. Wile E. speaks seldom, and when he doesn't, he and the Road Runner show equal capacity for writing and reading.
  • Sitting Ducks: The alligators and the ducks they prey on have human-level intelligence and live in their own modern towns. The plot centers around Bill and Aldo, a duck and an alligator who actually manage to become friends after the former is almost eaten by the latter. Aldo only manages to stay friends with Bill by restricting his diet to fish which are apparently non-sapient.
  • In The Smurfs one of Gargamel's goals (aside from using them to create gold) is to eat the Smurfs.
  • SpongeBob SquarePants: In "Shanghaied", the Flying Dutchman decides that Spongebob and Patrick aren't making good crewmen after all, so he decides to just eat them. Even when they magically wish him into being a vegetarian, he just turns them into fruits to make good on his threat. On the other hand, in the alternate scenes where Squidward/Patrick gets the last wish, the episode ends with Spongebob, Squidward and Patrick eaten by the Flying Dutchman.
  • Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles (1987): Although possibly just an idle threat, the Shredder makes an awful lot of fuss over dining on turtle soup.
  • ThunderCats (2011) has mentions of Fishmen eating Catfolk, Catfolk eating Fishmen, Lizardfolk eating Catfolk, and Maniac Monkeys eating Bird People.
  • Zigzagged on Timon & Pumbaa. Their usual diet consists of non-sapient, non-anthropomorphized bugs, but occassionally they have no qualms about eating talking insects. However, one episode has the duo meeting a talking (and singing) snail, with Timon stating that they can't eat him because of it. Timon and Pumbaa spend the rest of the episode keeping the snail from being eaten by other predators.
  • Tiny Toon Adventures: Much like their progenitors, the Tiny Toons are frequently threatened with being devoured by polygamist southern alligators, nonverbal hick possums, a pale-faced hitch-hiking escaped convict, a riverboat captain toad, quibbling condor brothers, animate candy bars, an outlaw coyote gang, and a wolverine.
  • Tom and Jerry: Tom's motivation is usually just to catch Jerry, usually because it's what his owners expect of a cat, though eating him has been an implied as a possible result of their endless game of wits.
  • The Amazing World of Gumball:
    • Two sketches in "The World" points out a consequence of a world where Everything Talks: all the food isn't just made from living things, it's alive while being eaten. One centers on Gumball's lunch acting as an army unit "in enemy territory" who he mercilessly eats without any challenge. Conversely, the other sketch has Richard microwaving a sausage, and it's really into it.
    • Despite all the "people" of Elmore being Funny Animals, them eating each other is played for laughs a few times. Anton, a piece of toast, has been eaten by his classmates at least twice.

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