A heartbreaking video has revealed a pod of dolphins appearing “to comfort each other” before hunters close in on them, to slaughter the family and take some to captivity.

The footage was filmed in a Cove near Taiji, Japan, and it shows a group of pilot whales, among the largest oceanic dolphins, herded by hunters and kept overnight awaiting slaughter.

This video was shared on Twitter by Dolphin Project, a non-profit organization. They wrote:

“It’s been a tragic start to the dolphin hunting season here in Taiji. The month is not even half over yet, and we have seen brutal slaughters and heartbreaking captures take place.”

Dolphin Project also revealed that the nursery pod of pilot whales had been “ruthlessly hunted” for hours before hunters managed to drive them into shallow waters, “Cove.”

A post on the Dolphin Project website read:

“Exhausted and traumatized, the family surfaced, and spy hopped as they caught their breath.”

“Once the nets were dropped, and their fate was sealed, they swam in a tight circle, always touching one another. Their beautiful matriarch could be also be seen swimming around them, always rubbing up against members of her family.”

The family was left overnight, “without food or shelter” and the hunters returned the following morning, just after sunrise.

The dolphins were still “swimmingly closely together as they tried to understand what was happening,” and the hunters started separating them for captive selection.

Eight pilot whales were taken for a life in captivity, while the rest of the dolphins were left on the shores awaiting slaughter.

The dolphin charity added:

“The slaughter process was long, bloody, and loud. The pilot whales thrashed against the water as they were dying.”

“We continued to live stream this horror, watching as their blood seeped out from under the tarps.”

“The hunters slaughtered this family in phases, presumably because of their size. They appeared to kill three to four individuals at a time, so those left waiting for their turn at death had to swim in bloody water and witness their family slowly dying.”

Among the dead was the mother to the pilot whales, who spent the night comforting her family.

Every year, from September to late February, Taiji port witness similar scenes as dolphins are legally herded and killed by fishermen.

For the 2019/2020 season, dolphin hunters at Taiji have been granted a quota of 1,749 dolphins by the government, which includes 101 short-finned pilot whales. Countrywide, the Japanese Fisheries Agency allows fishermen to capture nearly 16,000 cetaceans annually.

The country had recently resumed commercial whaling despite international criticism.

It’s not clear how many whales Japanese whalers have caught since hunting resumed in July.