PRIME Minister Tony Abbott has ruled out shutting down the live cattle export trade amid allegations of cruelty on Australian cattle at Vietnamese abattoirs.
But Mr Abbott has promised if there was a problem, the government would investigate.
Welfare lobby group Animals Australia claimed it had fresh footage of abuse, showing cattle having their skulls smashed with sledgehammers at Vietnamese abattoirs.
AA cited the footage but had not yet released it publicly. It lodged a complaint with the Agriculture Department last week.
The group said it began investigating the Vietnamese trade in Australian cattle after the industry reported thousands of cattle were being slaughtered outside of approved abattoirs.
While stringent standards on the slaughter of Australian cattle overseas have applied since the 2011 shutdown of live exports to Indonesia, reports of cattle mistreatment have continued outside the approved chain.
The ban on live cattle exports was completed under the then-Labor government, after revelations of abuse emerged from the same welfare group that has reported the latest footage.
Treasurer Joe Hockey was most vocal on Wednesday.
In Darwin he told reporters it was proper to react to one instance of abuse, but "you don't close off the food chain" on the basis of an isolated report.
"That was the mistake the previous government made, and we are not going to make that mistake," he said.
"We are going to investigate that thoroughly."
Australian Livestock Exporters' Council chief executive Alison Penfold said no animal should be subjected to mistreatment.
She said practices like stunning animals with sledgehammers was banned in approved slaughterhouses but was unfortunately still used in some unapproved places in Vietnam.
The Agriculture Department is investigating.
EARLIER: Aussie cattle 'slaughtered with sledgehammer' in Vietnam
AUSTRALIA'S live export trade is caught in a fresh controversy with claims cattle have been slaughtered with sledgehammers in Vietnam, reviving calls for trade to be suspended.
Animals Australia said it has obtained "shocking and distressing" video showing animals killed by having their skulls repeatedly smashed.
The animal rights group is yet to release the vision but lodged a complaint with the Agriculture Department earlier this month about the abattoir in Vietnam's north.
"Animals Australia launched an investigation in the country after admissions by industry representatives in April that thousands of Australian cattle had been slaughtered outside approved supply chains," a statement from the animal rights group said.
"The killing of cattle and buffalo through repeated blows to the head with a sledgehammer is the traditional method of slaughter in Vietnam."
Update your news preferences and get the latest news delivered to your inbox.