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Saintly Vegetarianism

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Not eating meat is used to show a character's inner goodness or purity.

This work is a proposed Trope, Tropers can vote and offer feedback in the comments section below.
Proposed By:
sareteni on Oct 28th 2011 at 12:51:09 AM
Last Edited By:
Pichu-kun on Jun 1st 2018 at 6:08:15 PM
Name Space: Main
Page Type: Trope

This trope is when vegetarianismnote  or veganismnote  is used to indicate that the character following that diet is morally good, enlightened, innocent, or pure. Don't be surprised if the character in question also fills The Heart role.

This doesn't have to be an Author Tract, but can easily be seen as one.

If a whole culture is like this, it's a Veganopia. Related to Herbivores Are Friendly. Contrast Evil Vegetarian and Real Men Eat Meat (which assumes being a "real man" is a good thing).

Can be used to Pet the Dog for more Jerk Ass characters, showing a softer side to them.


Examples

Comic Books

  • Implicit in Superman: Birthright. Clark is vegetarian because he can see an animal's "life force". And, of course, he's the greatest superhero in the world.
  • Discussed in Watchmen. Dan discusses Ozymandias, marveling at how such a great man could do something so evil. He even remarks that he's a vegetarian. Rorshach then points out that Hitler was as well.
  • Karolina Dean, The Heart of the Runaways, is also a vegetarian.
  • Wonder Woman is occasionally written as vegetarian. She is The Heart of the "Big Three" and is one of the most heroic and nice (though not necessarily gentle) superheros in the DC universe.

Film — Animation

  • The cat Tiger from Don Bluth's An American Tail frees the mouse Fievel Mousekewicz from his cage, explaining that he's a vegetarian that never eats mice. Tiger is the only feline character in this work to avert the Cats Are Mean trope, actually becoming Fievel's best friend and confidante.

Film — Live Action

  • Sheldon Mopes/Smoochy the Rhino (Edward Norton) in Death to Smoochy. ZCE
  • Lampshaded/subverted/played for laughs: Todd Ingram, in Scott Pilgrim vs. The World. Veganism gives Todd his Psychic Powers ... but doesn't keep him from being a Jerk Ass.
  • Played with in S.W.A.T.. Hondo, who has some Cowboy Cop tendencies, rejects a SWAT applicant with a perfect record partly because he doesn't seem to comprehend that he may have to compromise that perfect record to be a SWAT officer, and partly because the guy orders a soy dog.
    Hondo: (to Street) How can I trust a man won't eat a good old-fashioned American hot dog?

Literature

  • Judge Dee. The Taoist monks in The Haunted Monastery are enlightened vegetarians. Subverted in that both the innocent monks and the particularly depraved villain are vegetarians (he's even noted as enjoying the food).
  • Eragon: The elves are vegetarian, and of course they're superior - just ask them. One sign that Eragon is becoming more elvish is his conversion to vegetarianism.
  • Although it's not explicitly treated as "good", Richard's enforced vegetarianism in the Sword of Truth series is believed to be a magical balance for the killing he does.
  • The Cullens in Twilight call themselves vegetarians because they eat animals rather than people, and are generally considered to be morally superior.

Live-Action Television

  • NCIS: One episode had a vegan janitor as a suspect, Abby invoked this trope to argue he had to be innocent.
  • In Star Trek, Vulcans do not eat meat and are generally considered rather enlightened.

Newspaper Comics

  • Get Fuzzy: Despite eating meat products towards the beginning of the comic's run, Rob is a vegetarian on moral grounds. He has explained on more than one occasion that he doesn't eat meat because he finds the way animals are treated and butchered into food products to be too cruel.

Religion and Mythology

  • The Bible averts this; it is said that vegetarianism is weak, as both plants and animals are meant to be eaten.
    As for the one who is weak in faith, welcome him, but not to quarrel over opinions. One person believes he may eat anything, while the weak person eats only vegetables. Let not the one who eats despise the one who abstains, and let not the one who abstains pass judgment on the one who eats, for God has welcomed him.
    — Romans 14:1-3, ESV
    • The book of Daniel in The Bible plays it straight, portraying Daniel and his friends as vegetarians, refusing to have meat even though they were working for the Babylonian king and could have whatever food they wanted, and even proving to their overseer that they were healthier for it. (This may also have made it easier for them to keep to Kosher laws in this period of Jewish exile, which require special slaughtering and preparation of meat and for it not to be eaten in the same meal with dairy.) He became known as a prophet, dream interpreter, and the guy who miraculously survived being thrown into the lion's den.

Video Games

  • In the Fable series, eating vegetables will make your character more pure and eating meat will make them more corrupt.
  • Dungeons of Dredmor, in its typical tongue-in-cheek fashion, has the Killer Vegan skill tree: "The power of clean living, moral superiority, and gluten-magic." It includes an "Aura of Self-Righteousness" power that deals "righteous" damage to your enemies.
  • Subverted in Bravely Default. AgnÃÂ$s Oblige is vegetarian due to her position as Vestal of Wind, but an optional conversation later in the game reveals that she has started eating meat, which is presented as a positive thing.
  • PETA made a parody of Cooking Mama called Cooking Mama: Mama Kills Animals that makes cooking a turkey look much more gruesome than it is. It comes with a bonus that says "Thanks to you, Mama now loves animals!" The Mama is shown wearing an apron that says "Go Veg" and "Powered by Tofu". Of course, it's PETA, what do you expect?

Web Comics

  • Celia from The Order of the Stick is a Neutral Good Actual Pacifist and vegetarian. Because she's an Outsider, she has a different perspective on death to most of the cast (instead of an afterlife, her soul will merge with the Elemental Plane of Air), causing her to respect both her own life and those of creatures around her.
  • Marzipan in Homestar Runner is a vegetarian and the only member of the cast who isn't an idiot or a jerkass.

Web Original

Western Animation

  • Arthur. This becomes a major plot in the episode, "Sue Ellen Vegges Out," in which Sue Ellen becomes a vegetarian because her new "best friend" is a pig at a pig farm, and the idea of pigs being slaughtered for consumption horrifies her.
  • Avatar: The Last Airbender: Aang is a vegetarian and Wise Beyond Their Years (although he sometimes still shows his playful kiddie side). He's also kind and wants to promote peace. Being raised by the highly-spiritual Air Nomads (who are also vegetarians) helps.
  • The premise of Count Duckula is that after death, Duckula can be resurrected by performing a blood ritual when the moon is full, but his assistant Igor accidentally uses ketchup instead of blood. As a result, Duckula, originally a villain, comes back as a peaceful vegetarian.
  • Played with in Teen Titans. Beast Boy is vegetarian because he has personally embodied many animals normally considered for meat.
  • Theodore from the 90s Alvin and the Chipmunks movies is vegetarian while his brothers are not. He's The Heart of the group.
  • Depending on the Writer, Bubbles from The Powerpuff Girls is vegetarian, and is the most innocent of the three. (This is despite her often shown eating meat, especially with the Running Gag of Utonium and liver).
  • In The Simpsons, Lisa is both the most intelligent and most idealistic member of the cast, and has converted to vegetarianism. Originally it was played for her learning An Aesop about moral crusading and acceptance, but since learning her lesson it's remained a part of her character.
  • In one South Park episode Stan, who is the most sensitive of the gang and issues often into animal welfare, went vegetarian. The episode ends up parodying the "sensitive" variant.

Real Life

  • At least half the New Age books on the market promote vegetarianism/veganism as the One True Path To Enlightenment.

Feedback: 76 replies

Oct 28th 2011 at 2:09:15 AM

An inversion related to Hitler Ate Sugar: Some people use Hitler's supposed vegetarian status as an argument that not eating meat is evil. Vulcans,arguably. Ghandi Buddha Lisa Simpson Invoked by Abby in an episode of NCIS as an argument for why a vegan janitor couldn't be the culprit.

Oct 28th 2011 at 7:09:04 PM

At least half the New Age books on the market promote vegetarianism/veganism as the One True Path To Enlightenment.

Oct 30th 2011 at 2:15:53 AM

Averted in Egyptian Mythology: Seth was the mighty and badass god of storms, desert, destruction and generally bad things, and his diet mainly involved lettuce.

Oct 31st 2011 at 3:17:21 AM

Who's Ghandi Buddha Lisa Simpson? ;-)

Averted by Jesus who ate meat.

Oct 31st 2011 at 8:51:12 AM

Could someone who's read it more recently decide if Superman Birthright counts? Clark is vegetarian because he can see an animal's "life force". And, of course, he's the greatest superhero in the world. But I can't recall if these two facts are explicitly linked.

Oct 31st 2011 at 9:00:01 AM

In Eragon the elves are vegetarian; as Eragon becomes more elvish he becomes vegetarian.

Nov 1st 2011 at 6:41:38 AM

^^ It's implicit, but it counts. The whole point of the book is to modernize, humanize and vindicate Superman's boy scout reputation.

Nov 1st 2011 at 6:44:57 AM

Gandhi, Buddha and Lisa Simpson. Lol.

AP
Nov 4th 2011 at 6:31:18 AM

  • Discussed and ultimately averted in Watchmen. Dan discusses Ozymandias, marveling at how such a great man could do something so evil. He even remarks that he's a vegetarian. Rorshach then points out that Hitler was as well.

Sep 20th 2014 at 4:34:51 PM

I know this is a few years old but I was gonna make a YKTTW for this concept: Vegetarians are sweet, friendly characters or sensitive ones.

Sep 20th 2014 at 4:58:41 PM

  • In the Fable series, eating vegetables will make your character more pure and eating meat will make them more corrupt.

Sep 20th 2014 at 5:16:43 PM

Western Animation

  • Arthur. This becomes a major Political Correctness Gone Mad plot in the episode, "Sue Ellen Vegges Out," in which Sue Ellen becomes a vegetarian because her new "best friend" is a pig at a pig farm, and the idea of pigs being slaughtered for consumption horrifies her.

Also, it may or may not need to be pointed out that there's a lot of Truth In Television behind this, because many vegetarians in Real Life, especially hardcore vegans, are like the Jehovah's Witnesses of dietary lifestyles.

Sep 20th 2014 at 6:22:48 PM

Related to Herbivores Are Friendly

BTW I believe this is Up For Grabs. Who wanna grab this before I do?

Sep 20th 2014 at 6:57:34 PM

  • Aang from Avatar The Last Airbender Possibly justified because Airbender monks were very similar to Buddhist monks.
  • Played with in Teen Titans. Beast Boy is vegetarian because he has personally embodied many animals normally considered for meat.

Sep 20th 2014 at 7:48:52 PM

Added tag "Description needs help". Also, this should probably forbid real life examples, because it would be pretty controversial.

Sep 20th 2014 at 8:14:05 PM

Possible rename to Venerable Vegetarianism for Added Alliterative Appeal ?

Sep 20th 2014 at 10:52:34 PM

Judge Dee: The Taoist monks in the The Haunted Monastery. Subverted in that both the innocent monks and the particularly depraved villain are vegetarians (he's even noted as enjoying the food).

Sep 21st 2014 at 12:35:29 PM

I'll grab this one, Dan. It'll be tomorrow before I can finish cleanup, though.

Sep 21st 2014 at 1:26:06 PM

  • Celia from The Order Of The Stick is a Neutral Good Actual Pacifist and vegetarian. Because she's an Outsider, she has a different perspective on death to most of the cast (instead of an afterlife, her soul will merge with the Elemental Plane of Air), causing her to respect both her own life and those of creatures around her.

Sep 21st 2014 at 5:09:31 PM

Film:

  • Played with in SWAT Hondo, who has some Cowboy Cop tendencies, rejects a SWAT applicant with a perfect record partly because he doesn't seem to comprehend that he may have to compromise that perfect record to be a SWAT officer, and partly because the guy orders a soy dog.
    Hondo: (to Street) How can I trust a man won't eat a good old-fashioned American hot dog?

Sep 21st 2014 at 5:51:24 PM

Sep 21st 2014 at 7:19:44 PM

Comic Books

Sep 22nd 2014 at 1:50:53 AM

  • Depending On The Writer Bubbles from The Powerpuff Girls is vegetarian. This is despite her often shown eating meat, especially with the Running Gag of Utonium and liver.
  • In one South Park episode Stan, who is the most sensitive of the gang and issues offen into animal welfare, went vegetarian. The episode ends up parodying the "sensitive" variant.

Sep 22nd 2014 at 3:08:38 AM

  • Capitalized the title.
  • Completed the Laconic.
  • Corrected spelling (characters -> character's).
  • Examples section formatting
    • Added a line separating the Description and Examples sections.
    • Sorted examples by media and added media section title(s).
    • Added a space between asterisks and the first word following them.
    • Namespaced and Blue Linked Creator names.
    • Namespaced, italicized and Blue Linked work name(s).

Sep 22nd 2014 at 8:37:51 AM

Newspaper Comics

  • Get Fuzzy. Despite eating meat products towards the beginning of the comic's run, Rob is a vegetarian, and has explained on more than one occasion that he doesn't eat meat because he finds the way animals are treated and butchered into food products to be too cruel. On some occasions, we see that Rob's diet also affects Bucky and Satchel's diets as well; one time while Rob was away, Joe made them some jerk chicken as a treat.

Sep 23rd 2014 at 4:45:37 PM

  • Played with when it comes to Elmer Fudd. He's an antagonist but stated in The Rabbit Fire he is vegetarian but hunts for sport. He's more Affably Evil than an actual villain.

Sep 29th 2014 at 4:15:50 AM

Are you there Mr. Antigone?

Sep 29th 2014 at 9:39:04 AM

There are more than a few Zero Context Examples that need fleshing-out. Just saying "[character] is a vegetarian" (or worse yet, just naming the character without even saying that much) isn't enough; their vegan or vegetarian status needs to be offered as evidence of their moral character.

Sep 29th 2014 at 12:46:55 PM

Elmer Fudd doesn't count for this, IMO. He may be a vegetarian, but I know people who would ding him for being a sport hunter — thus killing "for fun" instead of for survival.

Sep 30th 2014 at 10:46:52 AM

Real Men Eat Meat doesn't have moral implications, though — unless "being macho" is defined as morality.

Sep 30th 2014 at 2:51:08 PM

^^ and ^: I'd say "compare and contrast"; Real Men Eat Meat generally casts carnivorousness in a positive light insofar as being a "real man" is depicted as a positive trait, which contrasts the negative light cast on it by this trope. But it's certainly possible for that trope to overlap with this one in works that depict traditional masculinity in an unfavorable light, e.g. conflating it with barbarism.

Sep 30th 2014 at 6:55:15 PM

Added in e bit about petting the dog.

Oct 1st 2014 at 11:14:30 AM

^^ Good point, hbi2k — added that to the description.

Oct 9th 2014 at 12:08:17 AM

Description needs fleshing out.

Nov 13th 2014 at 12:48:22 PM

Marzipan in Homestar Runner is a vegetarian and the only member of the cast who isn't an idiot or a jerkass.

Dec 15th 2014 at 10:39:10 PM

The book of Daniel in The Bible portrays Daniel and his friends as vegetarians, refusing to have meat even though they were working for the Babylonian king and could have whatever food they wanted, even proving to their overseer that they were healthier for it. (This may also have made it easier for them to keep to Kosher laws in this period of Jewish exile, which require special slaughtering and preparation of meat and for it not to be eaten in the same meal with dairy.) He became known as a prophet, dream interpreter, and the guy who miraculously survived being thrown into the lion's den.

Dec 16th 2014 at 2:36:24 PM

  • Dungeons Of Dredmor, in its typical tongue-in-cheek fashion, has the Killer Vegan skill tree: "The power of clean living, moral superiority, and gluten-magic." It includes an "Aura of Self-Righteousness" power that deals "righteous" damage to your enemies.

Dec 16th 2014 at 7:43:59 PM

  • Although it's not explicitly treated as "good", Richard's enforced vegetarianism in the Sword Of Truth series is believed to be a magical balance for the killing he does.

Jan 2nd 2015 at 6:11:48 PM

Sorry to have left this — had some computer issues, and lost track of a few things.

Feb 13th 2015 at 7:31:34 AM

Still has Zero Context Examples that only say "[character] is vegetarian" (or just "[name of character]") without explaining how it's used as evidence of their moral character.

Feb 13th 2015 at 10:48:39 AM

  • The premise of Count Duckula is based around this. After death, Duckula can be resurrected by performing a blood ritual when the moon is full, but his assistant, Igor, accidentally uses ketchup instead of blood. As a result, Duckula comes back as a peaceful vegetarian, rather than a murderous monster.

Feb 16th 2015 at 7:52:41 PM

^ is Duckula even saintly?

Btw context for Aang: he's a vegetarian and he's Wise Beyond Their Years (although he sometimes still shows his kiddie side), and he's also gentle and kind and aims to promote peace. Being raised among the highly spiritual Air Nomads helps.

Mar 8th 2015 at 9:17:15 PM

Added context for ATLA

Mar 8th 2015 at 9:44:35 PM

Western Animation

  • The cat Tiger from Don Bluth's An American Tail frees the mouse Fievel Mousekewicz from his cage, explaining that he's a vegetarian that never eats mice. Tiger is the only feline character in this work to avert the Cats Are Mean trope, actually becoming Fievel's best friend and confidante.

Mar 8th 2015 at 11:17:42 PM

Some Fridge Logic abounds from this mindset thought especially considering that plants are living beings too (granted they're not sentient so they are more likely to fall to What Measure Is A Non Human that animals)

Mar 9th 2015 at 12:37:54 AM

^ try telling that to Real Life vegans.

Mar 9th 2015 at 9:14:08 AM

If the Cullens from Twilight can call themselves "vegetarians" because they're eating animals instead of humans, then I don't see why eating plants wouldn't be morally superior to eating animals, even though all are living beings. (Also, there are people who only eat fruit, as not to harm any creature - fruit is intended by the tree to be eaten.)

Mar 9th 2015 at 1:50:37 PM

  • PETA made a parody of Cooking Mama that makes cooking a turkey look much more gruesome than it is. It comes with a bonus that says "Thanks to you, Mama now loves animals!" The Mama is shown wearing an apron that says "Go Veg" and "Powered by Tofu". Of course, it's PETA, what do you expect?

Mar 14th 2015 at 9:26:09 PM

  • In Star Trek, Spock was sent back in a planet's past "All Our Yesterdays". Vulcans are vegetarians, but where Spock is sent is back in the planet's ice age. The Girl Of The Week, Zarabeth, has killed an animal and that was the only food. McCoy, seeing Spock angst over having "eaten animal flesh" tells Spock that he's regressing back to the primitive Vulcan of long ago.

Apr 21st 2015 at 10:24:12 PM

Bump for now, I can't be sure about who's managing this lol.

May 12th 2015 at 1:18:57 PM

I've been looking for this trope off and on for years.

May I suggest adding that it implies either goodness or purity? The connection with purity is arguably as strong as with goodness but may fit a True Neutral better than Good at times. In most cases they will overlap, of course, but I feel that with Pure Is Not Good there may be potential for interesting examples of characters who are objectively evil showing that they feel themselves to be morally superior (or even holy) through vegetarianism.

Sep 15th 2015 at 3:01:46 PM

Apr 8th 2016 at 9:10:53 PM

Bump because some ignorant made a duplicate

Apr 8th 2016 at 10:10:18 PM

Why is the Arthur episode written under Political Correctness Gone Mad?

Aug 24th 2016 at 4:34:02 PM

  • Subverted in Bravely Default. Agns Oblige is vegetarian due to her position as Vestal of Wind, but an optional conversation later in the game reveals that she has started eating meat, which is presented as a positive thing.

Aug 24th 2016 at 4:34:34 PM

(Double post, please ignore)

Dec 27th 2017 at 11:34:25 PM

The Twilight example doesn't discuss actual vegetarians.

Dec 28th 2017 at 6:31:06 AM

Suggested quote for the draft:

Short answer, being vegan just makes you better than most people.

Mar 14th 2018 at 2:27:39 AM

Mar 15th 2018 at 3:23:27 AM

In the Doctor Who Expanded Universe, the Sixth, Seventh and Eighth Doctors are often depicted as vegetarian, after the Sixth Doctor swore off meat following his encounter with the cannabilistic Shockeye in "The Two Doctors". This was abandoned in the post-2005 TV series, when the Ninth Doctor is seen eating meat in "The Empty Child"/"The Doctor Dances".

Mar 14th 2018 at 6:02:16 AM

  • Exaggerated in Vegan Artbook. It's a vegan Author Tract where every good character is vegan, and every bad character is an omnivore.

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