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Mean Vegetarians?


I was watching a documentary on hippos when the disillusioning process began. “The common hippopotamus from sub-Saharan Africa is largely herbivorous,” the commentator stated.

I looked at my husband in confusion. “How can that be? How can hippos be vegetarians? I thought they were mean.”

“They are among the most aggressive animals on the planet,” he said. “And they’re vegetarians.”

Ah. Mean vegetarians. A little research reveals that hippos will even attack humans with no apparent provocation. And hippos are not the only mean vegetarians. Turns out there are a number of other plant-eating aggressors among us. Here are a few more facts on mean vegetarians and what brings out their aggression.

1. Some vegetarians become uncomfortable when things start moving away from the safe and known. “Hippos are unpredictable. If they are encountered away from the safety of water, anything that gets between them and their refuge may be bitten or trampled.”1

2. Some vegetarians become annoyed and lash out at anyone that gets in the way. “A moose that has been harassed may vent its anger on anyone in the vicinity, and they often do not make distinctions between their tormentors and innocent passers-by.”2

3. Some vegetarians make lots of noise when they feel intimidated. “When bulls [bison] threaten, they may bellow, stamp feet and snort, approach each other with tails high.”3

4. Some vegetarians refuse to let go of the past. “In India and Africa, elephant bulls have been known to attack entire villages, killing people and destroying rural homes. Presently, elephants kill up to 200 people a year in India and up to 50 in Sri Lanka. Elephants have a remarkable memory and many of these killings are inflicted upon villages that were involved in mass culling, even decades prior to the attacks.”4

5. Some vegetarians don’t like it when it appears that others are stepping on their turf. “Rhinoceroses are, generally, solitary animals that prefer to live an independent life….However, they all demand their own territories, particularly the males of the species. In order to ensure that they can secure their territory, certain behaviour has been established. This behaviour is sometimes aggressive, and sometimes displayed merely as a warning.”5

Lest you think I am treating vegetarians in a biased and unfair manner, I will concede the point that my research also revealed a number of admirable qualities among plant-eaters. Here are a few such traits:

1. Some vegetarians create close communities, working together to keep their offspring safe. “Elephants form deep family bonds and live in tight matriarchal family groups of related females called a herd….When a calf is born, it is raised and protected by the whole matriarchal herd.”6

2. Some vegetarians are so non-threatening and gentle, they have a calming influence on the aggressive and dangerous. Manatees, also known as sea cows, are often called gentle giants. “Alligators have been seen swimming peacefully past manatees. Sharks have been known to leave them alone, as well.”7

3. Some vegetarians stick together, overcome problems, and work in unity. Take, for example, the great migration of the wildebeest. “While having the appearance of a frenzy, recent research has shown a herd of wildebeest possesses what is known as a ‘swarm intelligence,’ whereby the animals systematically explore and overcome the obstacle as one.”8

Vegetarians. Mean? Non-threatening and gentle? Sounds like who you are may be determined by more than what you eat. Now that’s something to chew on!


Notes & References:










Sandra Doran, Ed.D., is the author of hundreds of articles and five published books and has been a columnist for the Adventist Review and Signs of the Times. She is currently the HeadMaster of North Tampa Christian Academy, an innovative, project-based learning school serving PreK through High School on the west coast of Florida.

Photo by Hendrik Cornelissen on Unsplash


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