Oct. 21, 2013 at 1:44 PM ET
It's almost a cliche in entertainment: Kill dozens of people in a show or movie, and your audience will roll with it, but threaten a cute little animal and it's another story.
(Warning: Spoilers for Sunday's "Walking Dead" episode follow.)
On Sunday night's episode of "The Walking Dead," dozens of staggering undead were dispatched, and a few prison-dwelling humans too. But the uproar on Twitter came when the group's leader, Rick Grimes, drew the zombie hordes away from the prison's sagging fence by slitting the sides of live pigs and throwing them out to the hungry walkers. It's a well-played scene, and shows the death of Rick's dreams for a calmer life as a gentleman farmer in the middle of the apocalypse.
Andrew Lincoln, who plays Rick, said in an AMC video that his character had no choice.
"It was one of those wild harrowing points at which his back's against the wall again," Lincoln said. "We're gonna be invaded. And the rationale behind it is selfless. They've gotta get rid of the pigs, they could be a threat."
Lincoln, of course, is well aware that the pig sacrifice was more than just a smart move. "Behind all of that is incredible heartbreak," he said "This is a physical manifestation of all his hard work, and his hope gets slaughtered."
After the episode aired, a poll on "The Walking Dead" site asked viewers what they thought about Rick's pig-flinging plan. At press time, more than half the voters thought it was both tactically smart and a moral thing to do, but a sizable 35 percent thought it was a smart tactical move, but immoral to sacrifice the living pigs.
And many of those who found it disturbing took to Twitter to share their views.
"NO, NOT THE PIGS!" tweeted Gabii Ballester.
"I understand that the pigs were infected but killing them for the zombies still upsets me," wrote Bilbo Murphy.
Many fans were aware that they were more distraught about pigs dying than humans, but that didn't stop the feelings.
"I've expressed more emotion while watching the walking dead when he kills the pigs more than any other time." wrote Molly O'Connor. "Save the pigs!"
But yes, even on a Day Many Pigs Would Die (you read it in middle school, right?), there was still some dark humor about the porcine passing.
Wrote Matthew Wiseman: "On 'The Walking Dead,' when Rick was crippling the pigs to use as bait to lure away the zombies, would he have cut the animal's hamstring?"