Shocking new undercover images have shown the distressing moment a pod of Pilot Whales were slaughtered in a cove in Japan.

Trapped with no escape, the helpless creatures are pictured clinging close to one another as they spent their remaining few hours together before being dragged to shore and butchered.

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Undercover photos revealed the shocking slaughter

The animals endured hours of suffering before finally succumbing to an agonising death, animal rights groups said.

Today, the few remaining whales were forced to swim in the blood of their family members, with horrific images from The Sea Shepherd Conservation Society showing baby whales desperately swimming beside the butchered corpses of their parents.

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Blood started to seep out from the killing shore

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A juvenile and baby linger beside their dying mother in the killing cove

The juveniles were not large enough or worthy of quota, Sea Shepherd said, and after several hours, were driven back out to sea and left to fend for themselves.

A total of 18 Pilot Whales were slaughtered in the brutal ritual hunt and the likelihood of the abandoned young whales surviving is very slim, the marine conservation organisation said.

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The whales' only defence was to thrash against the rocks in hopes of escaping the torture

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The pilot whales were dragged to shore and slaughtered

Now, animal welfare groups have responded furiously to the tragic scenes.

"The drive hunts are phenomenally cruel," Clare Perry, head of The Environmental Investigation Agency's Cetaceans Campaign said.

"From the point of chasing the animals in, leaving them in the bay with no food or space and then slaughtering them in front of their family members.

"The way they are killed is not designed to do the job swiftly, but to minimise the amount of blood being let into the cove," she said.

"This is a tragedy on so many levels," she told HuffPost.

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The animals endure hours of suffering before finally succumbing to an agonising death

the sea shepherd conservation society

Killers were in the water separating the largest of the pod for slaughter

Despite the intergovernmental International Whaling Commission’s (IWC) ban on commercial whaling since 1986, Japan has continued to slaughter whales, having been granted a special permit from the United Nations to do so. Since 1986, Japan has killed 14,000 of them.

The country continues to hunt whales using the scientific research provision in the agreement conducted by the Institute of Cetacean Research, which activists have slammed for being a thinly disguised commercial whaling operation at worst.

Speaking to HuffPost, the animal rights group Peta said "discredited 'scientific' research and tradition are simply excuses for the ongoing cruel killing of whales in a world that rejects such barbarism."

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The cove turned a bright red after the slaughter of the Pilot Whales

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The haunting visual of the killing boats intimidating this pod of Pilot Whales

The group said such treatment of "complex, social, peaceful and deeply intelligent animals," was simply "vile."

"Japan would benefit from promoting whale watching over whale killing – a vile pursuit that takes us back to the unenlightened times of Moby-Dick."

Whale meat is a luxury food in Japan but interest in the delicacy is plummeting, Greenpeace has argued.

Japan has even served whale meat in school lunches as part of a government initiative to reduce massive stockpiled amounts, Reuters reported.

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  • Sea Shepherd Cove Guardians Capture Pilot Whale Slaughter

    Remaining pod still alive swimming in family members blood in killing cove. Bodies being taken via skiff to the butcherhouse. Utterly despicable

  • Sea Shepherd Cove Guardians Capture Pilot Whale Slaughter

    The cove runs red as most of the pilot whales have been slaughtered. A small remaining number of the pod remains alive at outer edge of net. Traumatized as they witnessed their family murdered and dragged out toward butcher house. 7:06am

  • Sea Shepherd Cove Guardians Capture Pilot Whale Slaughter

    A baby Pilot Whale is included in this pod that is about to be slaughtered. — at Taiji Japan.

  • Sea Shepherd Cove Guardians Capture Pilot Whale Slaughter

    Killers leave the pod over night in the killing cove. — at Taiji Japan.

  • Sea Shepherd Cove Guardians Capture Pilot Whale Slaughter

    Clinging to all they have left of their time on this earth. — at Taiji Japan.

  • Sea Shepherd Cove Guardians Capture Pilot Whale Slaughter

    Their fate is vein sealed as the net is pulled across the entrance of the cove. — at Taiji Japan.

  • Sea Shepherd Cove Guardians Capture Pilot Whale Slaughter

    Skiffs join the killing boats as they drive pod toward the killing cove. — at Taiji Japan.

  • Sea Shepherd Cove Guardians Capture Pilot Whale Slaughter

    This pod struggled for hours and put up a good fight. — at Taiji Japan.

  • Sea Shepherd Cove Guardians Capture Pilot Whale Slaughter

    Another day of work for the dolphin killers — at Taiji Japan.

  • Sea Shepherd Cove Guardians Capture Pilot Whale Slaughter

    View of the killing boats at the harbor entrance as we begin to Live Stream — at Taiji Japan.

  • Sea Shepherd Cove Guardians Capture Pilot Whale Slaughter

    THe family of Pilot Whales fought the strong current as they were being driven toward the killing cove. — at Taiji Japan.

  • Sea Shepherd Cove Guardians Capture Pilot Whale Slaughter

    This family will be slaughtered just after sunrise tomorrow morning. — at Taiji Japan.

  • Sea Shepherd Cove Guardians Capture Pilot Whale Slaughter

    View from the beach of the cove as daily life continues for local folks. — at Taiji Japan.

  • Sea Shepherd Cove Guardians Capture Pilot Whale Slaughter

    The pod of approximately 30-35 Pilot Whales clung together in the center of the cove, where they will be held overnight until they are slaughtered just after sunrise tomorrow morning. — at Taiji Japan.

  • Sea Shepherd Cove Guardians Capture Pilot Whale Slaughter

    Killers use "slap paddles" to intimidate the pod.

  • Sea Shepherd Cove Guardians Capture Pilot Whale Slaughter

    After a long struggle, the pilot whale pod was driven into the cove by 7 killing boats.

  • Sea Shepherd Cove Guardians Capture Pilot Whale Slaughter

    Killers pull net across entrance of the cove.

  • Sea Shepherd Cove Guardians Capture Pilot Whale Slaughter

    The haunting visual of the killing boats intimidating this pod of Pilot Whales. — at Taiji Japan.

  • Sea Shepherd Cove Guardians Capture Pilot Whale Slaughter

    Cove Guardians Live Stream as killing boats reach the entrance of the cove.

  • Sea Shepherd Cove Guardians Capture Pilot Whale Slaughter

    Pod of Pilot Whales will be held overnight in the killing cove until sunrise tomorrow. This pod will be slaughtered. We have stopped live streaming for today.

  • Sea Shepherd Cove Guardians Capture Pilot Whale Slaughter

    Live Stream to begin in 5 minutes as a pod of Pilot Whales is being driven toward the cove right now. http://Livestream.seashepherd.org/

  • Sea Shepherd Cove Guardians Capture Pilot Whale Slaughter

    Despite choppy seas and ship traffic, the dolphin killers continue to drive a pod toward Taiji. We will be posting updates regarding Live Stream.