SPONSORED LINKSIt is a fate too cruel to imagine - to be slowly sawed into pieces while still alive.
But this was how a whale shark met its end in China recently as its meat was butchered in front of a huge crowd to be sold at market.
The sickening scene was captured on camera and the video was uploaded to Youtube - sparking outrage among animal rights activists and shark groups who have labelled the footage 'appalling'.
The whale shark, the largest fish in the world, reaching more than 12 metres in length, is protected by law from being hunted or sold for its meat. People who violate the law can face criminal charges.
It’s unclear where the incident took place. But the Weibo user who posted the video online told reporters from Thepaper.cn he witnessed the scene in Yangjiang in southern Guangdong province, reports the South China Morning Post.
Ali Hood, Director of Conservation at The Shark Trust, said: 'The footage of a Whale Shark being butchered whilst apparently still alive has appalled Shark Trust supporters.
'To see such a magnificent, placid animal treated with such little dignity demonstrates to the Shark Trust how vital it is to continue to raise awareness as to the importance of sharks and their relatives to a healthy, balanced marine environment.
'Valued for their impressive fins, meat and liver oil, Whale Sharks are extremely vulnerable to overfishing often caught up in bycatch of larger fishing operations or targeted by artisanal fleets.
'Although listed under Appendix II of CITES and under the Convention for Migratory Species – the enforcement of domestic regulations can often lag behind.'
Ralph Pannell, director of wildlife & marine life travel company Aqua-Firma, added: 'This is cruelty beyond belief.
'I have recently been hosting Aqua-Firma Whale Shark Research & Photography trips in Mexico, admiring hundreds of these gentle giants swimming in their natural environment.
'This harrowing video highlights the greatest threat that whale sharks face today: new fisheries in southern China have been set up to target up to 600 whale sharks per year.
'If you put into context that around 6,500 whale sharks have so far ever been identified, 600 sharks in a year is a desperately high number.
'Fisheries of this kind have already exhausted local populations of whale sharks in India and Taiwan. We urge countries to place a ban on fishing these beautiful mainly plankton-eating creatures, so that their IUCN status does not turn from Vulnerable to Endangered with extinction.'
Last year an investigation revealed how a factory in southeastern China was cutting up about 600 of the fish every year.
A single carcass is worth around $30,000 (£19,000), with the meat being sold for food and the fins sold to restaurants for shark fin soup.
The skin is sold to manufacturers for bags and the oil is sold to companies that make fish oil supplements.