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This is a subtrope of Carnivore Confusion. In fiction, particularly if the prey can talk, carnivores are often Always Chaotic 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. If the heroes are mice, for instance, this often means that Cats Are Mean. In works involving talking animals, carnivores almost always fail to catch their prey. A lot of times, their prey actually defeats them.

This is by far the most common way to deal with predators in talking animal fiction. This trope has been around for a very long time. It may be one of The Oldest Ones in the Book. It can be a bit of a Wall Banger, and a lot of Hypocritical Humor, since Most Writers Are Human, and humans are not just an omnivorous, predatory species, but apex predators to boot! Other problems with this trope include:

  • The fact that predatory species serve a vital function in nature by keep other animals in check, thus preventing them from over populating and throwing the ecological balance out of whack.
  • Such creatures are often carnivorous as a fact of their digestive physiology, and thus you cannot simply expect them to "swear off meat-eating" without them becoming dreadfully ill and eventually dying a horrible, painful death.

On the other hand, when you're a mouse (a much smaller omnivore species), whatever the cat or the snake or the tarantula chasing you might be like on the inside isn't really relevant when they're trying to eat you. When the story is focusing on a prey animal, there's really not a whole lot of ways to keep predators from being monstrous.

Related to this, particularly in Xenofiction, this can overlap with Humans Are Bastards, and maybe even Humans Are Cthulhu.

Examples of Predators Are Mean include:


Films -- Animated

  • In The Land Before Time, carnivorous dinosaurs, called Sharpteeth, are the main villains. In the first movie, a T. rex named Sharptooth is the main villain. He is a nearly invincible killing machine, killing huge Apatosauruses 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 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 epic battle. It helps that the bug-eyed, feral Sabor is not in any way adorable and is, quite frankly, a mindless brute.
  • Glut the Shark in Disney's The Little Mermaid.
  • Dinosaur: Mimicking The Land Before Time, none of the predatory dinosaurs ever utter a word.
  • Averted in The Lion King, where the heroes are predators, and the circle of life is a major plot point. They're not actually shown killing, although Simba does mention eating antelope.
    • Then again, the only ones actually shown eating animal bits are the villain, Scar, and his hyena lackeys. Scar tosses them a haunch of zebra (which has somehow been neatly butchered).
  • Both inverted and played straight in The Jungle Book where although Mowgli's archnemesis is an evil, bloodthirsty tiger named Shere Khan, his two best friends are a sloth bear named Baloo and a black leopard named Bagheera.
  • Inverted and played straight in the Kung Fu Panda series films where the main character is a presumably omnivourous giant panda, who is trained by a similarly omnivorous red panda, who is partnered with a tiger, a Chinese viper, a praying mantis, a golden langur, and a Chinese crane (though the last two are technically omnivores). By contrast, while the villain of the first film is a clearly carnivorous snow leopard, the villain of the sequel is instead a presumable omnivorous albino peacock, whose minions are either carnivorous wolves or presumably omnivorous gorillas.


Literature

  • The Redwall series tends to do this a lot, with the villains almost always being predatory or omnivorous species such as weasles, foxes, stoats, 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. This does bring morality into question as there has been at least one talking, intelligent fish.
  • Brilliantly handled in Watership Down, where the 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.
  • Perhaps one of the most famous examples is Three Little Pigs. The villain is a 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.


Video Game

  • Averted in Putt-Putt Travels Through Time. One carnivorous dinosaur does appear and is just as friendly as the herbivores. It's also one of few of the dinosaurs to seriously wonder about the car traveling in prehistoric times.
  • Both inverted and played straight in Dinosaur King where even though the villains primarily use carnivorous dinosaurs, one exception is a Saichania.


Western Animation

  • 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 Troodon henchmen named Screech and Thud. Anonymous "Sharpteeth also appear in the TV series, including two Acrocanthosauruses and several anonymous Troodons.
  • 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 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.
  • Averted in Dinosaur Train.
  • Subverted by My Little Pony Friendship Is Magic. Earlier seasons tended to have characters that looked like they would be carnivorous as jerks (Gilda, The Diamond Dogs and various Dragons), but later seasons and the comics flesh them out into full cultures with a variety of personalities, both good and bad (Gilda even has a Heel Face Turn).


Real Life

  • Averted with the harmless whale shark[1]; they're the biggest of all sharks, but they're also the gentlest.
    • Most sharks are harmless in fact. They only attack by accident or because they feel threatened by the human's presence.
  • Averted with most spiders; most are harmless.
    • As with snakes.
  • Averted with many land predators, who only attack humans by accident. However, some animals' reputations are so ingrained into human culture that politicians have made campaign issues out of wanting to eradicate wolves; in fact, predator fear is so strong that linguists believe the Proto-Indo-European words for "wolf" (*wlkwos") and "bear" ("*rktos") were treated as taboo words.
  • Indeed, averted by most predatory animals. Except a few Always Chaotic Evil species like, surprisingly, dolphins, which are infamous for infanticide of their own young, rape and killing other marine mammal species for no observable reason.
    • Actually, the observable reason is that they're eliminating a competitor. Most predators will do this, given the opportunity: lions and hyenas don't prey on each other, but they'll kill members of the other species if they find an opportunity to do so without serious risk to themselves (most easily done by killing any unprotected cubs they find).
  • Averted with dogs, man's best friend, which are predators.
    • The same goes with cats.
  • Inverted for most big herbivores. Hippopotami are responsible for more human deaths than any other animal (save mosquitoes and humans), and Elephants will attack people even when unprovoked. Cows killed about 108 people in 2003 through 2008, whereas one American is killed by a shark per year. That's a 1 in 3,748,067 chance in your lifetime.
  • Played straight on this very wiki with Cats Are Mean and Reptiles Are Abhorrent. Then again, averted with Everythings Cuter With Kittens, Weasel Mascot, and Big Badass Bird of Prey (where the bird is often good, or at least not villainous; it's just Badass.)

Notes

  1. a filter feeder, which makes it a predator, just not the kind most people think of
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