In Real Life
, vegetation isn't necessarily the best source of food. It's hard to digest, is low in some essential nutrients, and requires a specialized digestive system in order to properly process it into anything useful for the animal eating said vegetation. On the plus side it's low in fat, and it can't run very fast. Because of this, most carnivorous animals are not well-adapted to eating plant materials (unlike herbivores, naturally).
In the world of fiction, however, this isn't the case. A normally carnivorous character can easily switch to a strictly vegetarian diet whenever he/she wants without worrying about digestive problems. This usually occurs in shows with many Funny Animals
as a means to address Carnivore Confusion
by establishing a normally carnivorous animal as someone who prefers dining on a carrot to dining on a rabbit. It is often used for My Species Doth Protest Too Much
characters to indicate that they have switched their diet to separate themselves from their more "predatory" associates. Or, though not as often, maybe they decide that hunting for food is too much work and decide to just switch to veggies.
A subtrope of Carnivore Confusion
and Artistic Licence Biology
. Contrast Ascended To Carnivorism
for when a normally herbivorous animal decides to eat meat. Vampires who refuse to feed on humans are common enough to have their own trope
This only applies to carnivorous, and sometimes omnivorous characters that switch to eating just fruits, vegetables and other plant-based foods (and the occasional fish
). Carnivorous characters that only switch from one type of meat to another are subversions.
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Anime and Manga
- Several of the carnivores including the hero in Kimba the White Lion became this trope when they are no longer allowed to eat each other under Kimba's new rule.
- Pretty much all Pokémon are shown to love eating berries (mostly because they also help heal various status effects in-game). This even includes what should be strictly carnivorous Pokemon like Mightyena (a hyena), Liepard (a leopard), and Arbok (a cobra).
- Subverted with Suicune. On the one hand, it does bear some resemblence to a cross between a canine and a feline (being compared to either a wolf or a cheetah by some fans). However, it has flat molar teeth and is actually based off of the Kirin (a mythical cross between a dragon and a horse), making it an herbivore.
- In Hyper Police there is an anthropomorphic lion named Mr. Nupu. How is he first introduced into the show? He walks into a bar, huge and bulky and intimidating in an anthropomorphic lion sort of way and in a deep and serious voice orders.... a vegetarian stir-fry meal. Ba-dum bum!
- Heart from You Are Umasou falls under this being a Tyrannosaurus rex raised by a family of Maiasaura. It's later subverted, in that he does switch to a carnivorous diet (Though he is horrified at first that he actually likes the taste of meat), but he will still eat berries now and again.
- In Animal Land, this is one of Tarouza's goals in order to get meat eating animals to get along with plant eating ones. He finds the solution in the form of the Eternity Fruit.
Fairy Tales and Folklore
- Subverted in a fairy tale where a little girl befriends a wolf she saved. The wolf tries to switch to a vegetarian diet (due to the girl not liking that he has to kill other animals to feed), but nearly starves himself in the process and ends up going back to his carnivorous diet.
Legends and Mythology
- In a famous Korean myth, a tiger and a bear wanted to be human and, in order to do so, they had to eat nothing but garlic and herbs for 40 days. The tiger could not and gave up, while the bear perservered, became a woman, married a semi divine being, and gave birth to the founder of the first organized Korean state. Note that bear is actually an omnivore that can digest vegetable matter while tiger is an obligate carnivore that cannot.
Film - Animated
- Tiger from An American Tail is a vegetarian cat who is appalled at the very thought of eating mice. He does occasionally eat fish now and then, though.
- Finding Nemo has a trio of sharks (led by a great white shark named Bruce) that want to give up their fish-eating ways and become vegetarians. It's not made clear what they decide to switch their diet to, but it is shown in the film that they are struggling to make the change.
- It's heavily implied they're eating dolphins. Which makes sense, when you consider that sharks are themselves fish and a "vegetarian" shark eating mammals makes as much sense as a "vegetarian" human eating fish or shellfish; it's possible they gave up eating fish because they're too closely related for moral comfort. But then it makes no sense again when you consider that most extant non-shark fish belong to the class Actinopterygii, which is more closely related to tetrapods like dolphins than cartilaginous fish like sharks.
- Baloo from Disney's version of The Jungle Book really seems to enjoy dining on fruits and the occasional insect rather than on meat. Justified - even though the polar bear lives as a carnivore due to a lack of plants in the Arctic, while the panda bear acts like a herbivore despite its digestive system being more suited to eating meat, for the simple reason that plants are incapable of running away when you attack them, all bears are omnivores.
- While he doesn't look like it, Baloo is a Sloth bear. To a degree, this portrayal is quite Truth in Television: Sloth bears primarily eat insects (mostly termites) and supplement with fruits some parts of the year.
- Another subversion would be Chomper from The Land Before Time. When faced with the dilemma of being friends with sentient dinosaurs that are also potential prey he decides to switch his diet. Not to veggies, but to insects.
- An interesting variation occurs with the various pterosaurs ("fliers") in the films such as Petrie. Petrie is a Ptranodon. Pteranodons' diet consisted mainly of fish. However, Petrie and his family are vegetarians, yet it's never stated why.
- Simba from The Lion King turns insectivore at the behest of his two animal friends. Just let go of your worries, and you too can grow big and strong on a morally-appropriate diet of creepy crawlies!
- Subverted with Alex The Lion from Madagascar. He switches his diet to avoid eating his friends, but to fish instead of veggies.
- The Seventh Brother, a film about a group of rabbits adopting a puppy, actually averts this. While Tiny tries eating the same plants the rabbits do for a while, he begins to grow sick and weak because he just can't live on the stuff. In the end, the rabbits return him to his human owners, and his health immediately begins improving once he starts eating dog food.
- The DreamWorks film Shark Tale had Lenny, a shark that decided to go vegetarian (even the very thought of eating meat made him nauseous). Ironically, he disguised himself as a dolphin (despite dolphins also being predators) in order to prevent other fish from fearing him.
- Which is also a case of Somewhere, a Mammalogist Is Crying since dolphins are just as vicious fish-hunters as sharks, if not even more so. Some dolphins even kill (and sometimes even eat!) sharks.
- According to Word of God, this is the case for every carnivorous animal in the Kung Fu Panda universe.
Film - Live Action
- Godzilla Junior from the Heisei (1984-1995) era of Godzilla films is shown to dine on leaves despite the fact that it was established that Godzilla's species is carnivorous.
- Zilla is something of an inversion. Marine iguanas are strictly vegetarians dining on seaweed, but Zilla's diet consists mainly of fish.
- The titular character from Theodore Rex is a Tyrannosaurus and a "recovering carnivore". His diet mainly consists of vegetables and cookies.
- Seven Pounds has Emily, the female Love Interest, claim her great dane is a vegetarian, eating only tofu and steamed broccoli. Obviously, the dog disagrees, devouring meat when offered it by Ben.
- Arashi No Yoru Ni has this as a driving conflict of the plot, because the wolf Gabu is a carnivore but doesn't want to eat his sheep friend, Mei. He tries to avoid eating meat, but finds he can't do it.
- The titular giant in The BFG. While his species is carnivorous, he has decided to eat a nasty-tasting vegetable called a "Snozzcumber" instead since he finds the idea of eating children appalling. Interestingly enough, it's the only other option he has besides eating humans since no other plants grow in Giant Land.
- The good-guy creatures of the Redwall series are mostly vegetarian, save the occasional fish or shrimp. This is plausible for the likes of mice and squirrels, but not for shrews or otters.
- The badger characters are also shown to have a mostly vegetarian diet. Like bears, badgers are actually omnivores and fruits and vegetation do take up a good portion of their diet along with insects and worms.
- Children of Steel had Terease, an anthropomorphic leopard raised by vegetarian humans. She took vitamin supplements at home but couldn't find them on the Astra, by the time Raj practically forced her to eat meat she was severely emaciated.
- In Discworld, the Goshhawk is a special kind of bird of prey, "always on the lookout for the vegetarian option''.
- In The Bible, Isaiah prophesies that when the Messiah comes to reign, "the lion shall eat straw like the ox," and animals will live together in peace.
- According to Young Earth Creationists, carnivorous dinosaurs such as Tyrannosaurus rex were herbivores. When asked what the T.rex's razor-sharp teeth were used for, they replied that they were used for cracking open coconuts.
- Answers In Genesis states that they either ate things like Watermelons, or had different dental equipment before the fall of man (...long story there).
- There's a common creationist belief that T. rex was a herbivore because its teeth are shallow-rooted and thus tooth breakage would be a major problem for the animal. Before you point out that tyrannosaur teeth have roots twice the length of the crown and were firmly rooted in the jaw, consider this question: Why would tooth breakage be an issue for an animal whose teeth constantly regenerates throughout its lifetime?
- Inverted in Dominic Deegan, where a character who failed to realise the difference between Orcs being herbivores and vegetarians (in this universe they're the former) tried to convince an Orc character to eat jerky to prove that they can eat meat. Vomiting ensues.
- The reason for the confusion is because orcs have massive tusks. The reason for that is because plant life in their native land is impossibly tough (when Luna saw an orc plant at one point, she thought it was the cutting board).
- The titular characters of Ozy and Millie appear to be vegetarian foxes, though it's not mentioned much, there's one strip where Millie's mom orders vegetarian soup and the clerk makes a big deal out of it. And Ozy's dragon dad prefers to roast tofu knights.
- Raine Dog is vegan, apparently DC Simpson likes to insert that into her comics.
- In Meadowhawk a modern dragon muses on what his medieval ancestors would think of them eating tofu-and-broccoli stir fry.
- In Kevin & Kell its unusual, and generally frowned upon, but happens now and then.
- Bruno, a wolf, becomes a closet grass-eaternote under the influence of his herbivorous girlfriend and then goes openly "trans-diet" and has several stomachs installed surgically.
- In the first strip showing home life of Ralph, a wolf, after reuniting with his long-lost half-sheep daughter they are having a vegetarian meal.
- Sheila, Kell's near-identical cousin, went through several alternative lifestyles that included herbivorous diets. However, when she is first introduced, she has already become a "born-again meat-eater".
- Original description of the strip on CompuServe Funnies Forum stated that at home Kell cooks tofu making it look like meat products for herself and Rudy. This idea was never mentioned in the strips and after a while disappeared from the description.
- Parodied in an episode of Futurama. An Animal Wrongs Group claims that they have taught a lion to become a strict vegetarian. The lion in question looks very sickly and lets out a single pathetic-sounding cough.
- An episode of The Grim Adventures of Billy & Mandy featured an old lady and her pet spider. Said spider was shown to love eating melons.
- The Smurfs are shown to be mostly vegetarians in their cartoon show appearances, but have on occasion eaten meat-based products. Though it does make you wonder where the meat actually comes from.
- Parodied in an episode of Sponge Bob Squarepants. In the episode, the Flying Dutchman reveals that he devours people when they are shown to be lousy members of his crew. Spongebob remembers that he still has one wish left and wishes that the Flying Dutchman was a vegetarian and therefore wouldn't eat them. The Flying Dutchman then just turns them all into fruit so he can eat them.
- Subverted by The Goode Family's dog Che, they think he's a vegetarian but he's actually responsible for a lot of missing neighborhood pets.
- One episode of Johnny Test had a ladybug that loves to eat flowers.
- In the Tiny Toon Adventures episode, "Rock N' Roar", when Buster gets a pet T-Rex, which he names "Rover", he tries raising him to eat vegetables, since he has no meat byproducts. This doesn't work at first, and Buster is willing to sacrifice himself to keep Rover from going hungry, but Rover can't eat his own surrogate parent, so he agrees to let Buster feed him large amounts of vegetables.
- The Giant Panda is a classic Real Life example. It's really an omnivore, and has a digestive system better suited for eating meat. However, its main diet consists of bamboo. This is because bamboo is plentiful and easy for the slow-moving panda to obtain as a food source rather than expending all of its energy chasing after prey. Their very inefficient digestion of bamboo makes them even more unsuited for hunting afterwards. So despite their reputation giant pandas will eat meat if given the opportunity. A video shows a panda eating a cow.
- A tragic variation occurs in Real Life regarding pets. For some reason, some pet owners believe that it is more humane to switch their cats', ferrets', or dogs' diet to a vegetarian one and even claim that their beloved pet is happier and healthier. Said owners don't seem to realize that cats and ferrets are obligate carnivores and dogs are omnivores that prefer meat and their digestive systems are not suited for a strict diet of veggies. Note that this can and does lead to severe health problems for the pets (especially cats and ferrets) if not done correctly. There does happen to be a company that makes vegan pet (both dog and cat) food that is both meatless and supplemented with the missing nutrients, but it's not recommended that the average pet owner try this without strict supervision of an experienced vet. There have actually been cases where Animal Cruelty officers have seized pets forced to go vegetarian by owners who aren't doing it correctly and in fact starving the animal.
- In fact, it's especially bad with cats (felids) and ferrets since they, along with otters, polar bears, tarsiers, grasshopper mice, aardvarks, and Tasmanian devils are by far the most strict meat-eaters of all terrestrial and semi-aquatic mammals (pinnipeds, sea otters, and toothed whales are even more carnivorous). Not to mention that many cats can't eat gluten (wheat protein) and it can in fact kill them. While cats do chew on grass and other plants occasionally, they do as a stomach remedy and for a few vitamin supplements, not as a source of calories.
- An inversion occurs with pet iguanas. Inexperienced owners will often make the mistake of assuming iguanas are insectivores like many species of lizard and will try to get them to dine on a diet of crickets and mealworms. While young iguanas may dine on the occasional bug or two, adult iguanas are strict vegetarians.
- Any human who switches to a fully vegan diet, since humans are omnivores by nature. However, this is a lesser example than most of the others, as although no hunter-gatherer society subsisted on a diet of less than 15 percent animal products and we have get vitamin B12 from animal-based foods, foods artificially fortified with B12, and B12 vitamin supplements, humans can adapt to almost any diet. A vegetarian diet is much less radical as vegetarians can generally find their protein in the foods vegans scorn.
- The aardvark cucumber relies exclusively on the aardvark to eat it, defecate the seeds and bury it. The aardvark is otherwise an obligate insectivore, it eats the cucumber for its water content. It won't eat any other fruits, though.
- Recent studies actually show that certain theropod dinosaurs (which were originally thought to be all carnivores), namely troodontids, oviraptorosaurs, alvarezsauroids, ornithomimosaurs & therizinosaurs, are actually omnivores (or, in the latter's case, herbivores)
- The kinkajou is a relative of the raccoon that lives in the rainforests of the Amazon whose diet consists mainly of fruit, despite being classified in the order Carnivora and having sharp teeth.
- The binturong, or bear cat, is an omnivorous animal sometimes compared to a bear (although they are a large civet and are more related to mongooses and cats), whose diets consist mostly of fruit, but will eat eggs and small animals if given the opportunity. It also belongs to the Carnivora order.
- Some individual alligators are known to eat fruit. No one is quite sure why, and the alligators do still mostly eat meat when given the chance, but scientists think it may be an adaptation for when food supplies are low (and might help explain how crocs have survived as long as they have). Captive alligators seem to enjoy eating watermelon as part of enrichment.
- There's also the Fruit-Eating Monitor Lizard. Every other species of monitor lizard is a carnivore, but this recent discovery is, well, a fruit-eating monitor lizard. It's still unknown how it evolved to eat primarily fruit unlike the other members of its genus.
- Jaguars in captivity have been observed eating pumpkins that they were given to play with: seeds, skin, stem and all. Humans are omnivores that can completly digest only the soft parts of a pumpkin.
- Flat Headed Cats, a small cat native to southern Thailand, Malaysia, Sumatra, and Borneo, are known to dig up and eat fruit and sweet potatoes, the latter of which comes from plantations and both of which come from gardens.
- There's at least one known example of a vegetarian lion, that made 9 years..