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Heartbreaking footage has be released of a pod of dolphins comforting each other before they were horrifically slaughtered by a group of hunters in Japan.
Recorded in a cove near Taiji, a group of pilot whales, who are among the largest of the oceanic dolphins, were herded and kept overnight before being broken up, according to US charity Dolphin Project.
Members from the animal welfare charity said they witnessed the pod swimming in a tight circle. They added that the pod's matriarch could be seen circling, "rubbing up against members of her family" as a form of comfort.
The day after they were herded together (Tuesday, September 10th) divers went into the water equipped with knives and selected eight of the pod to be taken into captivity, before cruelly slaughtering the rest.
Horrifying footage of the family being broken up showed the water frothing as many of the pilot whales were put into slings attached to the sides of the boats and then hauled away.
While other members were killed and their bodies slung under the bows of the boats so they could be taken away for food.
In one upsetting shot, the mother dolphin can be seen floating alone dead in the water before being hauled away.
The scene isn't something out of the blue for the port of Tariji as fisherman legally hunt dolphins in the inlet from September until late February each year.
Fishermen, who are given permits from the government to hunt the animals, strike metal poles inserted into the water to create a "wall of sound" that confuses them and drives them into the cove.
After getting them into the inlet, they close of the entrance with nets before divers go into the water to kill or capture their quarry.
The Taiji fishermen have been given the go-ahead to kill 1,749 dolphins, including 101 short-finned pilot whales, for the 2019/2020 season.
The upsetting footage comes months after Japan resumed commercial whaling this year despite international criticism.
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