Video shows appalling conditions on Australian live export shipments

Warning: This video contains graphic images that may disturb some people.

Newly released footage shows the appalling conditions that some animals are suffering on live export shipments.

Animal advocacy group SAFE has released videos of what it claims are five live export shipments from Australia to the Middle East last year, during which thousands of sheep reportedly died.

The disturbing video shows sheep covered in excrement and panting in high temperatures described by SAFE as "an oven-like environment".

SAFE claims the video was shot aboard the Awassi Express between May and October last year, chartered by Middle East company Kuwait Livestock Transport & Trading.

The ship is owned by Saudi millionaire Hmood al Khalaf, owner of Awassi NZ. He made headlines in 2015 after the Government made a deal with him which saw 900 sheep flown live to the Saudi desert, after which many of the lambs died.

Live export for slaughter has been banned in New Zealand, unless the exporter has permission from the Ministry for Primary Industries (MPI). However live export for breeding purposes is allowed.

"We are outraged that live export is still going on. Effectively our law is being undermined," said SAFE campaign director Mandy Carter.

"Animals exported alive for breeding are all ultimately killed in the country of destination, potentially by methods not allowed in New Zealand. Many will likely suffer the same welfare issues on board shipments."

MPI director for animals and animal products Paul Dansted said what is depicted in the footage is "completely unacceptable".

"Ensuring the safety and welfare of animals is MPI's priority, and underpins New Zealand's regulatory system for live animal exports.

"Exporters are expected to meet stringent animal welfare standards prior to, and during, a voyage. Our requirements are designed to prioritise the animal's health and welfare during their journey and ensure they are handled in accordance with New Zealand's strict animal welfare standards."

Mr Dansted said New Zealand has not exported livestock for slaughter since 2007, and in recent times had not exported to the Middle East by sea.

There's been only one live sheep export by sea out of New Zealand since 2008, when more than 45,000 sheep were sent to Mexico in 2015. The shipment saw 191 deaths.

In 2017 there were more than 27,000 live cattle exported from New Zealand to China, Sri Lanka and Papua New Guinea. Nineteen died.