On World Environment Day, when pledges to save the earth and its ecosystem were being taken across the world, a gruesome ancient tradition, in the Faroe Islands, off the coast of Denmark, saw the mass killing of whales.

The sea of Sandur, located off the coast of Sandoy Island in the north of Europe, turned blood red as the islanders slaughtered hundreds of whales on 5 June, to mark their whale-hunting culture. The custom was also observed near the Faroe Islands' capital of Torshavn, in November last year. Apparently, the inhabitants of the Faroe Islands catch and slaughter pilot whales (Globicephala melaena) every year during the whale hunt tradition known as Grindadrap.

The Faroe Islands is an autonomous province of Denmark and therefore the parent country's ban on whaling is not enforceable by the Islands' laws. Every year, therefore, pilot whales, beaked whales and dolphins are slaughtered in the name of the annual tradition.

"It is unacceptable for the Faroe Islands to preserve separate laws that allow inhabitants to continue the whale slaughter," PETA mentioned in its action alert Stop the Bloody Whale Slaughter, urging the government to stop the massacre.

The hunters crowd the whales into a bay and then cut into their spines, leaving the animals to bleed to death slowly. According to PETA, some whales swim around in their family members' blood for hours.

"Whales and dolphins are highly intelligent creatures and feel pain and fear every bit as much as we do. They are forced to watch their families die while swimming around in the bloody water, waiting to be slaughtered themselves," PETA said in the action alert.

However, despite criticism from animal rights groups and the International Whaling Commission, the whale hunting custom has continued on the Faroe Islands for thousands of years.

Pilot whales have been an important part of the culinary tradition of the Faroese, claimed as the descendents of Vikings, for over a thousand years. The whale mass hunting tradition is meant solely for consumption within the local community and is totally non-commercial in nature. After slaughtering, the whales' meat is distributed equally among the islanders.

Check out below the photographs of this age-old Grindadrap tradition of Faroe Islands, showing the shocking slaughtering of whales carried out near Sandur on Sandoy Island on World Environment Day…

Inhabitants of Faroe Islands catch and slaughter pilot whales during the traditional 'Grindadrap' near Sandur on Sandoy island on 5 June, 2012.REUTERS
Inhabitants of Faroe Islands catch and slaughter pilot whales during the traditional 'Grindadrap' near Sandur on Sandoy island on 5 June, 2012.REUTERS
A man pulls a rope as inhabitants of Faroe Islands catch and slaughter pilot whales during the traditional 'Grindadrap' near Sandur on Sandoy island on 5 June, 2012.REUTERS
Inhabitants of Faroe Islands catch and slaughter pilot whales during the traditional 'Grindadrap' near Sandur on Sandoy island on 5 June, 2012.REUTERS
Inhabitants of Faroe Islands catch and slaughter pilot whales during the traditional 'Grindadrap' near Sandur on Sandoy island on 5 June, 2012.REUTERS
Inhabitants of Faroe Islands catch and slaughter pilot whales during the traditional 'Grindadrap' near Sandur on Sandoy island on 5 June, 2012.REUTERS
Blood is seen on the hands of a man as inhabitants of Faroe Islands catch and slaughter pilot whales during the traditional 'Grindadrap' near Sandur on Sandoy island on 5 June, 2012.REUTERS
Inhabitants of Faroe Islands catch and slaughter pilot whales during the traditional 'Grindadrap' near Sandur on Sandoy island on 5 June, 2012.REUTERS
Inhabitants of Faroe Islands catch and slaughter pilot whales during the traditional 'Grindadrap' near Sandur on Sandoy island on 5 June, 2012.REUTERS
A man pulls a rope as inhabitants of Faroe Islands catch and slaughter pilot whales during the traditional 'Grindadrap' near Sandur on Sandoy island on 5 June, 2012.REUTERS
Inhabitants of Faroe Islands catch and slaughter pilot whales during the traditional 'Grindadrap' near Sandur on Sandoy island on 5 June, 2012.REUTERS
Inhabitants of Faroe Islands catch and slaughter pilot whales during the traditional 'Grindadrap' near Sandur on Sandoy island on 5 June, 2012.REUTERS
Inhabitants of Faroe Islands catch and slaughter pilot whales during the traditional 'Grindadrap' near Sandur on Sandoy island on 5 June, 2012.REUTERS
Blood is seen on the hands of a man as inhabitants of Faroe Islands catch and slaughter pilot whales during the traditional 'Grindadrap' near Sandur on Sandoy island on 5 June, 2012.REUTERS