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Predators Are Mean

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"Cook her while I have the little one for an appetizer. You know, 'cause I'm a meaner."

"Oh, I know what it is. You're afraid, because I'm the big bad wolf! Well, I'm not surprised. I AM the villain in every story."
Mr. Wolf, The Bad Guys (2022)

In fiction, particularly if the prey can talk, carnivores are often evil, and all the heroes are herbivores. The predator's desire to eat the prey makes the predator a villain, or at least, a Designated Villain. For instance, if the heroes are mice, often Cats Are Mean; if the main character is a squirrel, then Dogs Hate Squirrels. And even if the main character is a dog, that is the Villain Protagonist at best. In works involving talking animals, carnivores almost always fail to catch their prey. (Sometimes, their prey actually defeats them!).

This is a common way to deal with predators in talking animal fiction like World of Mammals or World of Funny Animals. This trope may be one of The Oldest Ones in the Book, sustained over the ages by the perennial conflict between farmers and predators over livestock. While we now understand that predators serve a vital ecological role (no apex predators=too many herbivores=ecosystem completely collapses) and need to eat meat to live, this is cold comfort to farmers and herders whose livelihoods could all too easily vanish into the stomachs of a pack of wolves. Likewise, to the mouse, what the owl is like inside isn't as relevant as that it's trying to eat you. When the story focuses on a prey animal, there's not a lot of ways to keep predators from being monstrous. Sapient Eat Sapient is a justified case of this, since there are sapient predators that know what they are doing and sapient prey that has a right to live. The more anthropomorphic they are shown to be the more likely they are to overhunt. There are still a few ways to avoid this though, the most famous being with the fish-eating characters who are often spared sympathy thanks to their targets being non-sapient (see No Cartoon Fish for more about that trope).

Subtrope of Good Animals, Evil Animals and Always Chaotic Evil. Often seen in conjunction with Carnivore Confusion. Can overlap with Humans Are the Real Monsters (particularly if the story takes the position that Hunting Is Evil), and maybe even Humans Are Cthulhu (particularly in Xenofiction). Goes hand-in-hand with Super-Persistent Predator, Herbivores Are Friendly, Scavengers Are Scum. Contrast Predation Is Natural. In-universe might explain the Xenophobic Herbivore. May be one of the reasons why Reptiles Are Abhorrent—note that lizards and turtles, two groups that include herbivores, get to be protagonists more often than snakes and crocodilians, which are all predators. At times some predators appear as a non-anthropomorphic third party in a conflict either because they are the only true animals or because they have no interaction with the established individuals in which case they may be neutral characters just as likely to eat the bad guys- if not more so. Certain predators have their own pages, such as foxes, wolves, birds of prey, and monitor lizards.

This trope is practically never Truth in Television, obviously enough. Very few predators have ever been observed to engage in apparently deliberate cruelty, and what appears to be cruel acts are largely framed through our human sense of morality. For example, while plenty of higher carnivores (i.e. mammals, birds and reptiles) 'play' with their prey before killing it, and probably do get some enjoyment out of the thrill of the hunt, this is ultimately just a way to ensure their survival, in the former case by weakening their prey so it can't brutally attack them (one of the most famous examples being how cats will beat down a rat they've caught before going in for the kill, as contrary to popular belief, a rat can and will fight viciously if given the chance). Furthermore, herbivores are usually much, much more violent and dangerous than the existence of this trope would suggest. After all, if a carnivore loses a fight, it can always run off and catch something easier for dinner, but if a herbivore loses a fight, it becomes dinner. No Real Life Examples, Please!


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    Anime & Manga 
  • Inverted in Aggretsuko, where Haida (a hyena) is bashful and awkward. Unless you threaten Retsuko.
  • In the first episode of Pokémon the Series: Diamond and Pearl, Piplup is captured in the web of an Ariados and has to be freed by Dawn. Later on, an entire swarm of Ariados come back to trap them, and Piplup is forced to use Bide in order to fend them off.
  • Inverted in Toriko: We're told of the Death Gore, a gargantuan herbivore beast who almost caused the end of the world by devouring whole tracts of forests and woodlands on his way. Eventually the disaster was averted when the Death Gore's pack was totally annihilated by a single predator, the Battle Wolf, which is carnivorous.

    Asian Animation 
  • In Pleasant Goat and Big Big Wolf, the wolves are designated as the villains, at least at first, due to their desire to eat the much friendlier and generally more peaceful goats.

    Comic Strips 
  • For a strip that endeavors to educate us about nature, Mark Trail still falls into this trope sometimes, the narration describing "villainous wolves" and similar.

    Fan Works 
  • Phineas and Ferb's Dinosaur Adventure plays with this. In contrast to the herbivorous dinosaurs which are usually peaceful and majestic, but potentially dangerous when threatened, the Ceratosaurus, Ornitholestes, and Allosaurus are presented as vicious and hostile towards the time-travelling main cast. However, the fic does make it clear that the predatory dinosaurs are only attacking because they are hungry, angered, defending their young, or, in the case of the Ornitholestes, mind-controlled.

    Films — Animation 
  • Deconstructed in The Bad Guys (2022). The titular gang is made up entirely of predatory animals who are master criminals feared by all of Los Angeles. But they had spent their whole lives being seen as monsters due to stereotypes about their species, and decided to live up to those expectations. Once the leader Mr. Wolf realizes he's unhappy with his criminal life and he can be more than the monster others see him as, he begins to reform, and the rest gradually follow.
  • In Barnyard, Dag the Coyote (pictured above) is a really mean predator coyote, willing to eat even a baby chick just to satisfy his hunger. Needless to say, in an otherwise lighthearted film about farm animals goofing off, he throws that out of the window just by showing up.
  • A Bug's Life has an aggressive and vicious bird who attempts to eat Flik, Dot, and the Circus Bugs.
  • Dinosaur: Mimicking The Land Before Time, none of the predatory dinosaurs ever utter a word.
  • The fox in The First Snow of Winter goes out of its way to try and eat Sean even after it catches the much fatter Voley.
  • Ice Age, Ice Age: The Meltdown, Ice Age: Dawn of the Dinosaurs and Ice Age: Collision Course have carnivores trying to harm or plot against the main cast of mammals. They are even designed to look mean to get the point across.
  • The Land Before Time:
    • Carnivorous dinosaurs, called Sharpteeth, are the main villains. In the first movie, a Tyrannosaurus rex named Sharptooth is the main villain. He is a nearly invincible killing machine, killing huge apatosaurs twice his size, surviving a 700-foot drop with just a mild coma, and leaping and running effortlessly. He is ultimately dispatched by being tossed into a lake and being hit on the head with a giant rock.
    • One of the many sequels does give us Chomper, a child Sharptooth who does not attack Littlefoot & co because they raised him for some time after he hatched. He and his parents show up in a later sequel, where they do refrain from eating the protagonists again (although it's implied that if the parents had found them without Chomper around, they would have eaten them anyway. The dad implies that the main reason he isn't interested is because they were hiding in smelly plants and thus were unappealing).
  • In Leafie, a Hen into the Wild, the closest thing to a Big Bad the film has is the one eyed-weasel who nearly kills Leafie and kills both of Greenie's biological parents. The film subverts this near the end as Leafie learns the weasel isn't any worse than she is. The one-eyed weasel's a mother who needs to feed her newborns. Leafie lets the weasel eat her so her children can live.
  • Glut the Shark in Disney's The Little Mermaid actively tries to eat Flounder and Ariel in the shipwreck until they manage to trap him in an anchor.
  • Subverted in One Stormy Night. Most of the antagonists are wolves however they're not mean because they're wolves, they're just mean wolves. Gabu and some background wolves aren't portrayed as malicious. Gabu is a sweet wolf who becomes best friends with a goat named Mei. Gabu tries to become a vegetarian and, even though Mei dislikes Gabu hunting, they both realize that is impossible.
  • The Rugrats Movie has a huge vicious and scary wolf named Scar Snout who is portrayed as over-hunting.
  • In Tarzan, a leopardess named Sabor is one of the main villains. She is eventually killed by Tarzan when he kills her by impaling her with a knife after an battle.
  • Deconstructed and Subverted in Zootopia. The movie takes place in a World of Funny Animals, where regular mammals have evolved to become intelligent, although prey animals still see predators with these stereotypes in mind. These stereotypes are only reaffirmed when it’s revealed that the predators are going savage and attacking innocent civilians on sight. However, it turns out that predators are some of the nicest characters in the film, and that they’re just trying to live their lives like anyone else. The real reason that they were going savage is because they were being forcefully darted with a drug by racist sheep.

    Films — Live-Action 
  • Jurassic World's website lists most of its carnivorous dinosaurs, pterosaurs and sea lizard as having high "Aggression Indexes" (in layman's terms, the carnivores have Hair Trigger Tempers). Plot relevant ones include the infamously carnivorous Tyrannosaurus rex, long-time villains Velociraptor, the fish-eating pterosaur Pteranodon and shark-eating sea lizard Mosasaurus. Given what Jurassic World is like, it's possible that they did this on purpose so the animals could live up to the expectations of the public, as most of these animals would have been relatively docile in real lifenote . In the raptors' case this is consistent with how they were depicted in the previous films and the Pteranodon’s high aggression level is a plot point in the film, seeing as the saurian Big Bad of the film frightens them into a maddened frenzy and sics them on a helicopter that was pursuing her. There are exceptions, though; the fish-eating Baryonyx and Suchomimus have a medium Aggression Index, as does the opportunistic pterosaur Dimorphodon. Gallimimus, the one omnivore of the mix, has a low Aggression Index.
    • The Indominus rex herself was specifically bred to be mean, because that makes for a more thrilling attraction and a better Attack Animal. It works; she breaks out and goes on a killing spree, For the Evulz as much as for food.
    • And then there's her successor: the Indoraptor from Jurassic World: Fallen Kingdom, which was also created to be an Ax-Crazy killing machine.
    • Really this could be true for all of the Jurassic Park films as a whole. Every single carnivorous species is presented as being vicious, threatening, and "murder-on-sight" of any human, while herbivores are presented as being majestic or largely peaceful.
  • Played straight in Tyranno's Claw, a 1994 dinosaur movie meant to ride on the coat-tails of the first Jurassic Park. The most hostile dinosaur who forms the film's main threat is a T-Rex, while the pterosaur tries devouring everyone as soon as it appears. Meanwhile, the triceratops is a Gentle Giant who befriends the main characters and barely puts up a fight against the hostile tribespeople.

  • In The Bad Guys, this is the main stereotype the four main characters (a wolf, a shark, a snake, and a piranha) are attempting to shake in their attempt to be good guys. It’s a rough thing for them to do, however, as most of them are not in full earnest, and still prefer meat. Mr. Snake especially has trouble shaking this role, which nearly jeopardizes a plan to free caged chickens.
  • A Fly Went By: Zigzagged. A frog is seen as bad for chasing a fly... but it turns out he didn't even want the fly... he was trying to get away from a cat... who was also innocent. Somewhere along the line, a cow believes a fox wants to kill her calf and he's portrayed unsympathetically... until it turns out he's also running away, this time from a man with a gun.
  • In Larry Niven's Known Space novels, the carnivorous alien Kzinti are aggressive conquerors who nearly defeat humanity.
  • Inverted in The Lost Fleet. During the series, the protagonists meet a sapient race of apex predators that resemble a mix between angry wolves and giant spiders. This species, the Dancers, is substantially nicer than humans on average, for the exact reason this trope is normally averted in Real Life-they, instinctively, are not actually wary of any bigger threats than they are, and thus aren't as suspicious as direct-middle-of-the-food-chain humans are by nature. By contrast, the herbivorous, bottom-of-the-food-chain klicks are a cute, cuddly, almost cow-like race of...utter psychopaths.
  • The Redwall series tends to do this a lot, with the villains almost always being predatory or omnivorous species such as weasels, foxes, stoats, snakes, rats, hawks and other 'vermin' species, and explicitly eat meat-often making comments about eating the hero or hero's friends. The heroes, however, are never said to eat any kind of meat, fish being the only animal they will consume, otherwise being completely vegetarian, even though mice, badgers, hedgehogs and otters, commonly featured among the heroes, are omnivores, domestic cats (which are carnivores), rabbits (herbivores), and dormice (herbivores) don't take sides, bees (herbivores) are bad, and many normal, non-sapient herbivores have been seen. This does bring morality into question as there has been at least one talking, intelligent fish.
  • Perhaps one of the most famous examples is The Three Little Pigs. The villain is a The Big Bad Wolf who huffs, and puffs, and— well, you know the story. Anyways, the three little pigs defeat him at the end of the story. In reality, however, pigs and wolves are both omnivores, like humans, eating both animal and plant material. This is very well understood in the older version of the story, where the only surviving pig cooks the wolf for dinner.
  • Watership Down: The rabbits refer to their multitude of predators as "u embleer hrair" — "The Stinking Thousand." The rabbits live in constant fear and hatred of their predators, casting them as demon-like entities in their mythology. But when confronted with the wanton destruction that humans inflict for no comprehensible reason, they acknowledge that their predators only kill because they have to and that they are struggling for survival not unlike themselves.

    Live-Action TV 
  • Walking with Dinosaurs: Averted with most predators, but played dead straight with Liopleurodon, which is shown as a "villain" of both episodes it appears in just because it preys on other animals. A bit of a bizarre example, in that in both of the episodes it appears in ("Cruel Sea" and "Giant of the Skies") the creature it is shown preying on or trying to is itself a carnivore.
  • In Walking with Monsters, anything that preys upon a human ancestor is shown as a vicious brute, unless it is itself stated to be a human ancestor.
  • Prehistoric Planet basically inverts this trope: the carnivores are portrayed as having a gentler side, with the Tyrannosaurus being a doting parent, the Tarbosaurus drinking peacefully with the herbivores without attacking, or the Carnotaurus performing a hilarious mating dance to woo a female. On the flip side, the Dreadnoughtus are a complete and utter aversion of Gentle Giant Sauropod, showing them battling over breeding rights in a brutal fight involving biting, stabbing with their thumb claws, and ramming each other with such force it leads to outright fatalities.

  • Played straight in Imaginext's dinosaur toyline. The evil dinosaurs, the Predators, are destroying the environment For the Evulz and are all carnivorous species like Spinosaurus or Velociraptor. Meanwhile, most of the good dinosaurs, the Ecovores, are herbivores, with the exception of the fish-eating Pteranodon.
  • Inverted, along with Herbivores Are Friendly, with the Animal Motifs of the heroic and villainous factions in LEGO Castle. The hero, King Leo, has a lion (a carnivore) as his emblem, while the villain, Cedric, has a bull (an herbivore).
  • Transformers: Generation One: This is the idea behind the team of evil animal robots being called "Predacons", even though only three of the five actually transform into predatory animals. Their equally villainous successors in Beast Wars are more consistent in actually being predators, though their heroic opponents have a few predators among their ranks themselves.

    Video Games 
  • Played straight in Far Cry 3 and Far Cry 4. In the third game in the franchise, some of the predators will hunt you with deliberate intent to kill you over NPCs that might be closer to them. And in some cases, two (or even three) different predators might gang up on you in favor of killing each other note . In the 4th game they added a giant eagle that will swoop down on you with little warning (a slight screech indicates a black eagle is about to attack and you have approximately 2 or 3 seconds to find it before you get attacked and lose half your health) and honey badgers that are not only tiny and vicious, but also extremely tough to kill with anything less than a machine gun. At least the honey badgers do not come in packs. The honey badger's toughness and viciousness is lampshaded in a hunting quest where you are given a heavy machine gun to hunt it down, and before you can fully accept the quest, you must say "yes" no less than 4 times to start the mission.
  • Monster Hunter: Predators are likely to attack you on sight while herbivores tend to shy away and get killed. There are exceptions however: Diablos is an extremely aggressive and territorial monster which also happens to be herbivorous. This is played with in Monster Hunter: World, several monsters of all kinds tend to just ignore you, either doing their own thing or hunting down their regular herbivorous prey. Even certain Elder Dragons like the Kushala Daora and the Kirin, who could be classified as animals above even Apex Predator, tend to mostly disregard your existence unless you decide to attack them. There are exceptions however in naturally extremely aggressive and territorial monsters like the Odogaron, who will roar and attack you on sight as soon as it spots you. Even when they do, however, it's never as a show of malice, in fact most of them see you as a threat rather than prey.
  • In Spore, carnivorous and even omnivorous creatures are more likely to be hostile in the creature stage. The player, however, can choose to defy this trope by playing a carnivore focused on socializing rather than hunting.
  • Spore Creatures: Any creatures that are aggressive by default (mostly carnivores) are typically described by the Species Guide as aggressive, mean, quick to anger, or otherwise highly unpleasant. Many missions and sidequests tend to involve you helping friendlier creatures protect themselves against them as well.
  • Predators are the main antagonistic force in Them's Fightin' Herds. Long ago, they were locked away in a prison realm by the ungulates, but not only did they find a way to come back to Fœnum to threaten their peaceful existence, they're coming back pissed. Though it's no surprise why races of herbivores would be afraid of races of carnivores, the Predators in this game are shown to be quite monstrous and willing to eat equally sapient beings. There are exceptions though such as the Sheepdogs, who subsist on non-sentient vermin that would otherwise destroy the Sheeple's crops, or the half-dragon race of the longmas, who refuse to eat meat and act as protectors for Fœnum.

    Web Original 
  • Hamster's Paradise: While this trope is averted for most of the carnivores on HP-02017, it's played completely straight by the maniacal ripperoo, a highly intelligent theropod-like predatory rodent that evolved in the harsh Mesoterran Badlands and adapted to tear its prey apart and eat it alive due to the lack of features allowing to quickly kill its victims. These factors have caused them to become naturally sadistic and enjoy the act of killing rather than only doing so to stay alive. They aren't any better towards their own kind either, with adult males killing adolescent ones to remove competitors, females eating the young of other females to remove competition for their own and the pups using their weaker siblings for hunting practice, which their mothers encourage. One lineage of theirs evolves into a sapient species known as the harmster, which are just as vicious as their primitive forebears.
  • Serina:
    • Zigzagged with the sapient gravediggers. While they can be quite aggressive with each other when it's not breeding season, otherwise they lack malice and will even hang out with prey species when not hungry. It's noted that while they don't feel guilt while hunting, they have no malice towards their prey either, only seeing death as necessary for their own survival.
    • A version of this is a central part of the fisher daydreamers' belief system. In their view, hunting intelligent beings for food is morally unacceptable, and one should only subsist on simple-minded creatures such as fish. Consequently, they view the large-prey ecotype cultures, such as pastoralists and whalers, who feed on other large marine birds, as being monsters and murderers.

    Western Animation 
  • In Alfred J. Kwak, Krabnagel the cat is the only anthropomorphic animal that eats other animals, and although not specifically called out for it is therefore considered especially vicious. Other carnivorous characters avert this trope (don't try to think too hard what they eat).
  • The Ant and the Aardvark is an animated series about a villainous aardvark trying to eat a noble ant.
  • Dink, the Little Dinosaur is a complete rip-off of The Land Before Time, so it's no wonder that it also has meat-eating dinosaurs as villains. The main villain is, guess what, a T. rex named Tyrannor.
  • In Dragons: The Nine Realms, dragons who hunt other dragons, such as the Flame Thrower or Jörmungandr, are potrayed as bad with Jörmungandr even serving as the Big Bad of the final season.
  • Two evil alligators try to eat the cubs in every episode of Kissyfur.
  • In The Land Before Time TV Series, the main villains are, again, carnivorous dinosaurs. Well, at least they get names. The main villain is a T. rex named Red Claw who has two Utahraptor henchmen named Screech and Thud. Anonymous "Sharpteeth" also appear in the TV series, including two Acrocanthosauruses and several anonymous deinonychosaurs.
  • The spider, the cat, and Pete (who plays a dogcatcher here), in the 1937 Mickey Mouse short "The Worm Turns". Mickey gives their victims, a fly, a mouse, and Pluto (don't think about that second one too hard), a serum to make them more powerful and beat their tormentors up.
  • In Polish animated series Między Nami Bocianami (Between Us Storks), a hawk, major Kirkor, is the most usual antagonist.
  • In My Little Pony: Friendship Is Magic, this trope might be better called "Predators are Jerks" — there don't seem to be many creatures that actively go out of their way to prey on ponies, but it's noteworthy that several episodes' worth of more unsympathetic antagonists like Gilda the griffon, the diamond dogs, and assorted dragons at the very least look quite carnivorous. On the other hand, the ponies' pets are quite naturally immune and the trope has an occasional habit of getting (sometimes hilariously) subverted around Fluttershy...
  • Two evil wolves try to eat the main characters in Piggsburg Pigs! albeit they are hardly the big bads of the setting as the show has a real scary monster in every episode.
  • The introduction of Bullet the Super Squirrel in The Powerpuff Girls (1998) has this, with the eagle that originally tries to kill Speedy for food is treated like a monster for, you know, being a predator. But then, Bubbles never did care much for animals that weren't cute.
  • Most of the "evil" animal characters (and minions of Big Bad witch Hedwig) are predatory marine animals in Saban's Adventures of the Little Mermaid including sharks, barracudas, manta rays and a giant octopus.
  • In South Park's Woodland Critter Christmas, most of the titular critters were prey animals (though there was a bear and a fox among them) and had a conflict with a mountain lion who would always come down before Christmas and eat the poor little virgin critter impregnated with their lord and savior. Stan, hearing their story, goes out to kill the mountain lion. It turned out that the predator was good all along because she was stopping the birth of the Antichrist, and it had three cubs who came to mourn their mother's Mufasa-style death.
  • Zig-Zagged in The Wild Thornberrys. Eliza would either befriend or run away from a predatory animal, depending on the episode.
  • One episode of W.I.T.C.H. has Hay Lin saving a rabbit from what she deems to be a "mean" fox. All the fox was doing was hunting for food.

Alternative Title(s): Carnivores Are Mean