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This trope, along with Predators Are Mean, are by far the most 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 is not true for the most part. For example, the common house cat, one of the world's most popular pets, is carnivorous and the harmless whale shark, the gentlest of all sharks, is omnivorous. Inversely, the big herbivores are some of the most dangerous, surliest animals; the loveable hippo (one of the most dangerous animals beside man) and elephant are known for attacking and killing humans (even) without being provoked.
For example, Temple Grandin's book Animals in Translation shows that, surprisingly, even the huge, social, herbivorous domestic cow is more dangerous to handle than the large, largely solitary, predatory tiger is. A cow or bull can attack a person out of dominance, but a tiger won't because they don't care about constant jostling within a social hierarchy. You obviously have to be extremely careful not to trigger any big cat's prey drive, but there isn't any dominance aggression.
Sometimes, the nice, friendly herbivore is actually a Vegetarian Carnivore.
- Inverted and played straight in Dinosaur King where while the heroes normally use herbivorous dinosaurs, one exception is a Carnotaurus.
- In Beast Wars Neo, this is averted amongst the Predacons, who have a number of herbivore dinosaurs (which are otherwise always good guy alternate modes in Transformers media) in their ranks. This is played straight by the Maximal leader, Big Convoy, the wooly mammoth Transformer. The Maximal pack also includes such innocuous creatures as a giraffe and a rabbit, which was also a different Maximal in the prior series, which also featured a lot of herbivore Maximals against military vehicle Predacons (and even most of the Cyborg Beasts were carnivores, with Dirgegun, a retooled Waspinator, being a full aversion.). Then again, one of the main Maximals in each series is a non-mammalian carnivore (a squid in II and a cobra in Neo, with them also having some warm-blooded carnivores like Break and Heinrad)
- The main dinosaur characters from The Land Before Time.
- Often averted and subverted with the recurring buffalo in the Kung Fu Panda movies and TV series. Played straight with the recurring rabbits though.
- In Snow White and The Seven Dwarfs, Snow White has deer, rabbits, squirrels, songbirds, and a tortoise helping her work.
- In An American Tail, Tiger, a Vegetarian Carnivore, is the only nice cat in the film. He befriends Fievel, a mouse, after confessing that his favorite food is broccoli.
- Unlike most sharks, Lenny from Shark Tale is actually a vegetarian and is also pretty friendly since he doesn't want to hurt other fish. That doesn't stop the fish from being scared of him though.
- 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.
- Averted in A Bugs Life. The grasshoppers (herbivorous insects) are villains and the ants (omnivorous insects) are good.
Live Action Film
- Mothra is among the most peaceful of all kaiju and happens to be a necter-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.
- 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 agressive father, he is quite friendly.
- Jurassic Park. "Veggie-sauruses!"
- The fourth film introduces a petting zoo for the herbivores, where they can even be ridden.
- Subverted in Terra Nova, when they were reminded that sometimes brachiosaurs ate meat.
Live Action TV
- 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.
- Brian Jaques's Redwall series often shows this-squirrels, rabbits and other herbivores, and a few omnivores such as badgers, mice and hedgehogs, are the heroes, where 'vermin' species such as weasels, stoats, bobcats, ferrets, foxes 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.
- Played straight and averted in the Monster Hunter series. Most herbivores, like Aptonoths, really are friendly and peaceful. Herbivore bossmonsters like Diablos? Not so much.
- Kevin and Kell likes to subvert this often. Kevin and Kell's daughter is a rabbit that eats meat. Kevin himself is generally friendly, but are not above punching predators trying to eat him. In fact, for a mini-arc it ended up a problem for Kevin as one of predator sued him for "breach of nature, rabbits should run". And was retorted "breach of nature, predators should eat rather than sue".
- In My Little Pony Friendship Is Magic pretty much everyone's a herbivore of some sort. This is pointed out in one episode when Pinkie Pie tries using it to create some common ground between some settler ponies and buffalo.
- The exact quote is, "both our diets, I should mention, are completely vegetarian..."
- Spike the gem-eating dragon also gets a pass for being a lithovore, as it's not herbivory, but not carnivory either.
- Something was said about this in the Magic School Bus episode where they went back in time and saw dinosaurs.
- Avatar: The Last Airbender:
- Momo and Appa are both herbivores.
- Nyla the Shirshu is a predatory meat eater.
- The cat belonging to the crazy potion maker is apparently also herbivorous or omnivorous. The woman making her dinner says plum blossom is her favourite.
- There's mention of a poodle-monkey but we never see it.
- The King's bear appears to be omnivorous (as are real bears), and friendly enough.
- Turtle Ducks: herbivorous and friendly unless you tick off the mama by bothering her babies.
- Penguins: carnivorous, but friendly once bribed with fish.
- Beast Wars played with this.
- The Maximal forces included two (Optimus Primal and Rhinox) herbivore characters (with Beast Machines adding a possible third in Nightscream), and one omnivore (Rattrap) in a cast of largely carnivore animals. While Optimus Primal played this straight, Rhinox ended up a subversion in Beast Machines.
- Waspinator is the sole herbivore among the Predacons, and is the most likable and least competent.
- Often averted. Many large herbivores are extremely territorial and will kill you deader than dead. The hippo (which is more dangerous than the predatory crocodile), the elephant, the rhino, and the cape buffalo are all among the most dangerous animals of Africa.
- Real Life Subversion: Herbivores (like cattle) tend to be seen as meat-slaves by humans. Cats and dogs, which are the animals most commonly seen as family members, are carnivores and omnivores respectively.
- Real Life subversion: Deer. People often mistake these herbivores to be gentle beasts of the forest, but they are actually extremely dangerous especially during rutting season. One particularly tragic example of this is when a man was gored to death by his pet buck when it attacked him (most likely thinking he was a rival male) and ended up stabbing him in the eye and piercing his brain.
- The wacky-looking moose is especially hazardous.
- Often played straight with rabbits. But not always.
- Turtles and Tortoises are generally the most tolerant and friendly of reptiles to humans, and those who aren't tend to be very shy. Also, while Iguanas can vary wildly per creature in terms in disposition, they can still form a close bond with humans akin to a dog or cat, depending on their personality. So it seems as though the most aggressive and dangerous herbivores in real life tend to be mammals.
- Played straight with iguanas.
- Your Mileage May Vary with iguanas (green iguanas more specifically). As noted above, every animal differs in behavioural tendencies, although some keepers of green iguanas get the mileage that the only 'tame' green iguana is a sick one (even if in ways not readily apparent to us.) Depending on your mileage, green iguanas might better qualify as an aversion of this trope.