Dr. Alan Grant: They're not monsters, Lex. They're just animals. And these are herbivores.
Tim: That means they only eat vegetables, but for you I think they'd make an exception.
This trope, along with Predators Are Mean, are a fairly common approach to Carnivore Confusion in fiction. Basically, all the villains are carnivores and all the herbivores, particularly if they can talk, are heroes.
Like Predators Are Mean, this trope has been around for such a long time that it may be one of The Oldest Ones in the Book. Herbivores Are Friendly often, but not always goes hand-in-hand with Predators Are Mean.
This trope and Predators Are Mean are so strong culturally that people assume that many Real Life predators (whether omnivorous or carnivorous by nature) are mean, evil, and nasty, and all the herbivores are cute, cuddly, and friendly.
This trope is not Truth in Television for the most part. The most dangerous large mammals in the world are actually big herbivores; the hippopotamus and the elephant are known to attack and kill humans even without being provoked. In North America, more people are killed by cattle each year than by bears, mountain lions, venomous snakes, sharks, and alligators combined. In other words, just because an animal won't eat you, doesn't mean it won't hurt you. Conversely, domesticated dogs and cats, both of whom are inclined to be friendly with humans, are inherently carnivorous. Many omnivores, such as the whale shark, are never a threat to humans.
Temple Grandin's book, Animals in Translation, explains that domesticated cattle can be a lot harder to handle compared to most wild felines. A bull or even a cow may attack a person in order to exert dominance, but a tiger will not do so unless its prey drive is triggered, as it is a solitary animal that does not care about social hierarchy.
Some herbivores are portrayed as threatening and aggressive on a fairly regular basis. Bulls, rhinoceroses, boars, gorillas, and elephants are especially prone to this. Another common exception, when herbivores are depicted as dangerous, is if they get involved in an Animal Stampede.
Goes hand-in-hand with and opposite of Predators Are Mean. Inverted with Xenophobic Herbivore. Often associated with Carnivore Confusion. Subtrope to Good Animals, Evil Animals and Always Lawful Good.
- Oumagadoki Doubutsuen subverts this trope with Rodeo, the humanoid horse in the Circus Arc: he embraces the theory that Predators Are Mean to the point of petty racism, calling carnivores dumb and brutal and going all out on them: when Kisazou, whom he previously respected as a fellow herbivore, tries to protect Uwabami (a snake-woman), Rodeo doesn't hesitate to mark him as an enemy too.
- Zigzagged in Toriko: most of the dangerous beasts they encounter are carnivorous and highly destructive, though the backstory of the Battle Wolf mentions how a colossal, herbivorous kaiju known as the "Death Gore" nearly destroyed all life on earth due to their unsatiable appetite for whole forests. Played straight among the incredibly powerful Eight Kings: non carnivorous ones like Horse King Herakles and the Deer King Sky Deer are the least aggressive of the eight (though by no mean less dangerous...)
- Atomic Robo: Zig-zagged in "The Trial of Atomic Robo". Doctor Dinosaur's latest killing machine is the "omnisaur" — half Triceratops, half Ankylosaurus and half Stegosaurus. Robo points out that those are all herbivores.
Dr Dinosaur: Herbivores. What was I thinking? Oh, right! The super-beams!
Robo: The what? [omnisaur starts glowing]
- Averted with a vengeance in the Lost World RPG retelling of The Lost World: Jurassic Park set in the Amalgam'verse. While the carnivores such as the Troodon and Carnotaurus menace the expedition and BioSyn hunters, the only docile dinosaurs the team meets are all carnivores such as a Suchomimus. The most aggressive non-hybrid dinosaur encountered is a Mamenchisaurus the team uses to destroy the hunter camp, during which released Triceratops, Parasaurolophus, Stegosaurus, and Pachycephalosaurus all join in on trampling or attacking anyone they come across in their dash for freedom.
- The main dinosaur characters from The Land Before Time. Chomper the friendly Sharptooth is an exception. In the sequels and TV series, an Oviraptor (an omnivorous dinosaur) named Ruby joins the heroes.
- In Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs, Snow White quickly gains the sympathy of a large group of Woodland Creatures, who do everything they can to help her. Nearly all of them are herbivores, with the sole exception of a couple of raccoonsnote .
- Another dinosaur example is the movie Dinosaur. The main characters are all herbivores, and even the mean herbivore rivals are only trying to accomplish the greater good.
- Inverted in A Bug's Life. The protagonists are omnivorous ants (though they're only shown eating plants), and their allies include predators such as a mantis, a ladybug, and a spider. The villains, by contrast, are herbivorous grasshoppers.
- Mothra is among the most peaceful of all kaiju and happens to be a nectar-feeding butterfly/moth. So long as you don't kidnap Her fairy companions or harm Her children in any way She won't hurt you. And if you do, you'll find that She wrecks cities as well as any Kaiju.
- A subversion occurs with Godzilla Junior. Though he is shown eating leaves in Godzilla vs. Mechagodzilla II, his species is actually carnivorous. Though, compared to his more aggressive father, he is quite friendly.
- Jurassic Park:
- In Jurassic Park, Dr. Grant calms Alex down when she sees nearby Brachiosaurus by reassuring her that they're plant-eaters.
- Inverted in The Lost World: Jurassic Park — Sarah upsets a Stegosaurus and barely escapes with her life.
- The Jurassic World website lists almost all of its herbivores as having low aggression, with the exception of the armor-plated Ankylosaurus, whose aggression is listed as "medium". Then again, they may have been genetically modified to be more docile to comply with visitor expectations.
- In Jurassic Park, Dr. Grant calms Alex down when she sees nearby Brachiosaurus by reassuring her that they're plant-eaters.
- The herbivore dinosaurs in Terra Nova are shown to be playful in the pilot episode. The main character's youngest daughter even feeds them treats.
- Spoofed in Dinosaurs as the herbivores are presented as dinosaur versions of hippie pacifists and marijuana users, which becomes a problem when the son Robbie (think Lisa Simpson's version of the series) becomes an herbivore.
- Mix with Our Werebeasts Are Different in Grimm: all the herbivore-based Wesen like the turtle-like Genio Inocuo and the sheep-like Seelengut are esentially harmless.
- Inverted in Dinosapien. The protagonist is an evolved dromaeosaur, while the antagonists are evolved pachycephalosaurs.
- In Primeval, a Scutosaurus is considered harmless in the first season because he is an herbivore. However, a few episodes later, he tramples and killed some men who attacked him.
- Brian Jaques's Redwall series often shows this. Squirrels (technically omnivores, but mostly eat plants), hares, and other herbivores, and a few omnivores such as badgers, mice, and hedgehogs, are the heroes, where wholly carnivorous species such as weasels, stoats, wild cats, snakes, hawks, ferrets, foxes (actually omnivorous, but still predatory), and the like are the villains. This is rather odd considering the fact that the most prominent species, the mice of Redwall, are omnivores but never eat any meat besides fish. One would reason that they never eat any intelligent creatures, but there has been at least one intelligent talking fish in the series.
- Discussed in March Upcountry: Captain Pahner sees a large herbivore on an unfamiliar planet and tells his troops not to fire. Prince Roger shoots the thing anyway, because he has actually been on safari and knows that herbivores are not harmless (and because he hadn't figured out the com software yet and hadn't heard the order).
- Played around with in Dinoverse. In the first set of books, the Leptoceratopses abduct Candayce and shove Janine around, and Candayce figures out that they were trying to protect her - she's in the body of a Leptoceratops and they don't understand why she's hanging out with a Tyrannosaurus rex. Similarly, when they encounter a Triceratops herd, it is hostile in defense of its nests, but is less so later, realizing that a little Leptoceratops and a wounded Quetzalcoatlus aren't threats. The Ankylosaurus met later on is friendly to the boy in the Ankylosaurus body, but wary at best of all the others.
- The Hork-Bajir from the Animorphs series are, when free from Yeerk control, naturally docile and unintelligent creatures who use the numerous blades on their bodies to strip bark from trees for food. A community of Hork-Bajir who escape the Yeerks become close allies of the Animorphs.
- The German SF series Maddrax has the hydrites. They are an absolutely peace-loving species of fish people... and vegetarians.
- Some Christian sects in the United States, such as those behind the Creation Museum (Answers in Genesis) believe that this was the literal truth of life on Earth pre-Fall. It's stated that animals before the Fall were friendly herbivores (one diorama depicts a T. rex chomping on pineapples) and that predation and carnivorism, being based in violence and killing, are by-products of the Fall. The Texas-based Creation Evidence Museum believes the pre-Fall atmosphere made creatures live longer, made them more intelligent and thus made them nicer. This have proven contentious, so any discussion of these views (positive or negative) best adhere to the Rule of Cautious Editing Judgment.
- Zig-Zagged in the Monster Hunter series. Most herbivores, like Aptonoths, really are friendly and peaceful. However, the Kestodons and Gastodons from World will attack if you linger near them for too long. And some of the large monsters are herbivores, like Diablos, which is anything but friendly.
- Inverted and played straight in Dinosaur King where while the heroes normally use herbivorous dinosaurs, one exception is a Carnotaurus.
- Subverted in Dino System Unless attacked, most herbivores are usually quite placid and ignore the player. Which can make it all the more surprising during survivor mode when a calm male Triceratops enters breeding condition and suddenly starts trying to kill the human survivor.
- Spore has creatures evolving. The first two stages (Cell and Creature) are spent deciding on a creature's diet. Later stages have the creatures evolved more, with their own moralities. Herbivores tend to be nice and social, carnivores tend to be hostile, while omnivores tend to be neutral and economic. Spore plays with this somewhat. When you advance to a new stage, you get bonuses and special abilities depending on how you spent the previous ones. Killing and eating your rivals would tend to give you combat bonuses when you acquired sapience, while socializing with other species and eating plants would give you social abilities instead. So if you began your evolution as a carnivore, you were encouraged to develop into a warlike civilization, while herbivores would be encouraged to play peacefully. However, you could defy this by simply not making use of your bonuses in the Tribal and Civilization stages.
- Subverted in Far Cry 3 and Far Cry 4. 3 has water buffalo that generally keep to themselves, but if you walk through their territory, they'll most likely chase you down and try to ram you. 4 has yaks which are pretty much just reskins of 3's water buffalo, as well as rhinos and elephants. The rhinos basically act the same way as the yaks, only they're faster, tougher, and do a lot more damage. The elephants, on the other hand, will not bother you at all unless you attack them — they'll even let you ride them, provided you have the necessary perk. However, once provoked, these elephants are very dangerous — and you can use this to your advantage, pitting them against your enemies and even riding them into battle. Despite the subversion in Far Cry 3, the binoculars identify animals as herbivore and predator, giving a clear distinction on which animals can attack. The identification is based on whether or not they're aggressive as opposed to their actual diet (e.g. Buffalo are tagged as predators).
- Mammoths in The Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim are mostly peaceful, just don't annoy them or their giant owners. Otherwise, it's played very straight: bears will attack you on sight; deer (which are covered on Real Life) flee from you on sight. Unless, of course, you have any active buff preventing animals from reacting to your presence.
- Downplayed with the gurns, druffalo and brontos in Dragon Age: Inquisition. They won't attacked if they aren't provoked, but they'll fight tooth and nail if wounded.
- Averted in Subnautica. The Ghost Leviathan is extremely aggressive. Turns out, it's a filter-feeder that eats plankton. It's just that territorial. Played straight, literally, with the Sea Emperor.
- Downplayed in Don't Starve; beefalo are aggressive during mating season (when their hindquarters turn red), but otherwise passive unless provoked.
- Kevin & Kell likes to subvert this often. Kevin and Kell's daughter is a rabbit that eats meat. Kevin himself is generally friendly, but is not above punching predators trying to eat him. In fact, for a mini-arc it ended up a problem for Kevin as one of predators sued him for "breach of nature, rabbits should run". And was retorted "breach of nature, predators should eat rather than sue". And it should be pointed out that Kevin's ex Angelique, genetically a rabbit (but posing as a rat), is one of the most vicious characters in the comic.
- Subverted in Freefall; Sam's Bizarre Alien Biology is edible and appetizing even to Terran herbivores.
- Parodied in this chapter of Manly Guys Doing Manly Things. It depicts a man expecting this to be the case, and getting stomped flat as a result.
- Schlock Mercenary: Double-subverted. When Xeno Team is approaching a group of large stick-like alien creatures that appear to be eating moss, Ebbirnoth cautious the rest that herbivores can still be dangerous. And then it turns out the big things are actually carnivorous.
Ebby: Let's just stick with "everything's dangerous until we've killed it."
- Something was said about this in the Magic School Bus episode where they went back in time and saw dinosaurs.
- The Wild Thornberrys Zig Zags it. Eliza easily makes friends with plenty of herbivorous animals, but she also encounters some realistically aggressive, such as hippos and water buffalo.
- The Simpsons often subvert this trope quite realistically.
- In "Little Big Mom", Lisa tried to approach a herd of deer because they look harmless, but when she gets close enough they turn ferocious and try to attack her.
- Lampshaded in "Four Women and a Manicure" when the Wicked Witch of Snow White mocks a group of cute woodlands critters, most of which are herbivores. The critters proceed to gang up and tear the witch apart as she screams in agony.
- Doubly subverted in a school video starring Troy McClure in "Lisa the Vegetarian",note where he convinces Bobbynote that it's okay to eat meat. McClure warns Jimmy that "if a cow had the chance he'd eat you and everyone you care about," as ominous music plays and the camera zooms in on a cow's face. However, the cow's face is so placid, that the idea of a threatening cow seems ludicrous.
- In "The Seemingly Never-Ending Story", Lisa's story-within-the-story has her encountering a goat in the forest, hoping it'll be friendly to a fellow herbivore, until it chases her into Mr. Burns' mansion. It turns out it was trying to bring back her necklace which she'd lost in the woods.
- Lisa expresses disbelief at a hippo eating someone, subverting the trope.
- Marina's best friend in Saban's Adventures of the Little Mermaid is a seahorse (in a setting where all marine predator animals are evil). It should be noted that in reality, seahorses are predators, albeit of microscopic crustaceans and plankton.
- Both inverted and played straight in The Lion Guard where Beshte the hippopotamus is the sole herbivore of the titular group as the rest are carnivores (Kion the lion, Fuli the cheetah, and Ono the egret) and an omnivore (Bunga the honey badger). Nonetheless, most of the show's villains are carnivores and it's guaranteed there will be villainous omnivores as well, but herbivores are invariably non-malicious and even ones that are not friendly can be reasoned with.
- Species living in an environment without predators are indeed often very docile. The Dodo of Mauritius evolved on an island without predators and was noted for having no fear or aggression toward humans, who promptly ate them into extinction. Herbivorous species that are accustomed to the presence of predators, however, often avert this: while some herbivores will flee danger as a first resort, others can be very aggressive, and will often be the ones to attack first if threatened or surprised. Herbivores such as hippos, rhinos, bison and even cattle have well-deserved reputations for being dangerous to approach, and even deer can turn on you if you startle them.
- Even domestic species can be far more dangerous than most realize. Despite popular image, cattle are largely not docile and even dairy breeds can be temperamental. Even if the breed lacks horns note , they're still big, muscular, heavy animals that can headbutt, bite, kick, and trample a human easily.
- Ironically one of the few sizable herbivores to largely be this trope to some degree are gorillas, despite being one of the chief exceptions to it in fiction. If not startled, attacked, threatened, or having their children harassed, they largely are docile and ambivalent towards humans and will go about their business. They can still be dangerous if agitated, especially a Silverback with his children or grandchildren in danger, but a majority of the time they much prefer to bluff-charge and scare a threat away than actually fight. Coincidentally, gorillas are also the most herbivorous of the apes and the meat they do eat mostly amounts to a few insects here and there.
- Some species of herbivore play this straight with each other, roaming in multi-species herds. Usually this is a sign that their dietary preferences are slightly different (e.g. grass vs. shrubs), and that each species in the group has a different well-developed sense (scent, hearing, sight) with which to detect herd members' mutual predators. Less competition, more chance to pick up on danger that way.
- This trope is behind the Japanese "Carnivore/Herbivore" slang. "Herbivore" in this case refers to a docile person who plays the passive role in a relationship, though sometimes it's used as a pejorative in the "Extreme Doormat" sense.
- Animal rights activists like to play up this trope, showing how smart and cuddly pigs, cows and chickens, and, by extension, herbivore humans, supposedly are. The fact that pigs and chickens are actually omnivores is quite unlikely to be discussed.