Sea Shepherd, longtime opponents of the practice, took covert pictures of hunts in 2017 which killed some 1200 whales and 500 dolphins.
Eco-campaigners have published a slew of grisly photographs showing whales and dolphins being hunted in the Faroe Islands.
The group Sea Shepherd, which campaigns against fishing practices it considers barbaric, recorded the images over a period of months. The Faroe Islands are a Danish territory in the North Atlantic, some 200 miles north of Scotland.
They documented a series of so-called whale drives, in which the Faroese government says around 1,200 whales and 500 dolphins were killed. The Government of the Faroe Islands vigorously defended the centuries-old practice.
Scroll down on the see what the controversial hunting practice looks like, and learn more about its history. Readers may find some of the following images upsetting.
Unlike Denmark, the islands are not part of the European Union.
EU law (this one) bans "deliberate capture or killing" of any dolphins or whales, but since the Faroe Islands are not part of the union they do not have to abide by the rules.
Neither the whales or the dolphins are endangered. The Faroese government said that most years around 1% of the total stocks of dolphins or whales are hunted.
Hunts like this have been taking place since at least 1298, when the first surviving laws regulating the practice were published, and precise records have existed since 1584, according to the Faroese government.
The last time this many animals were killed was in 1996.
The Faroese say that whale and dolphin meat is an important part of their diet, and means they don't have to spend money and waste natural resources importing food from abroad.
Sea Shepherd told Business Insider they have been blocked by legal means from using their ships to protest.
Instead, volunteers went to the Faroe Islands and posed as tourists to take photographs of the hunts with the hope of securing adverse media coverage.
One wrote this about what he saw:
"Witnessing a 'grind' first-hand was truly an eye-opening experience. In a place otherwise so quiet, it was unnerving to see the locals so animated once the grind had been announced.
"The first grind we saw was at Hvannasund, scene of several grinds in 2017. We witnessed the whole process from the driving in of the 50 or so pilot whales through the slaughter, the butchering and the distribution of the meat and blubber.
"As the pilot whales were driven to the shoreline by the small boats the intensity of the thrashing bodies grew. Hooks were sunk into the blowholes and the whales were dragged onto the shore in a sadistic game of tug of war. We witnessed whales seemingly bashing their heads against the stones in a frenzy."
They sent a long statement to Business Insider, which we are reproducing here in full:
"Approximately 1700 pilot whales and white-sided dolphins have been caught in the Faroe Islands so far this year. The annual long-term average catch of pilot whales in the Faroe Islands is around 800 whales, with large fluctuations in total catches and the number of individual whale drives from year to year.
"The pilot whale hunt in the Faroe Islands is sustainable. The long-term annual average catch of pilot whales in the Faroe Islands represents less than 1% of the total estimated stock. It has long since been internationally recognised that pilot whale catches in the Faroe Islands are fully sustainable.
"All meat, including whale meat, involves the slaughter of animals. The meat and blubber of pilot whales have long been - and continue to be - a valued part of the national diet. Catches are shared largely without the exchange of money among the participants in a whale drive and residents of the local district where they are landed. Each whale provides the communities with several hundred kilos of meat and blubber – meat that otherwise had to be imported from abroad.
"Sheep farming, whaling and fowling have enabled the Faroe Islands as an island nation to maintain a relatively high degree of self-sufficiency in food production. In the Faroe Islands it is considered both economic and environmental good sense to make the most of locally available natural resources, and to maintain the knowledge required to use what nature can provide in a harsh oceanic environment.
"Illegal and potentially dangerous actions by activists from the Sea Shepherd Conservation Society have been the hallmark of the activities of this group for decades.
"Sea Shepherd representatives will go to any lengths to paint a negative picture of the Faroese whale hunt as “barbaric”, “unnecessary”, “evil” and “lunacy” describing Faroese as “sadistic psychopaths”, with the aim of inciting anger and outrage against the people of the Faroe Islands.
"They have chosen an easy target, as whale drives in the Faroe Islands take place in the open for anyone to watch and document."