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.
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.
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.
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.
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."
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.