The video taken by a crewman on a ship destined for the Middle East, showed carcasses being tossed overboard.

Australian agriculture minister, David Littleproud, said he was concerned that the mortality report he received from the country’s department of agriculture and water resources did not accurately reflect the conditions on the ship.

He therefore ordered an investigation into the investigative capability and powers of the regulatory body.

A phone number would also be introduced to allow whistle-blowers to anonymously provide information, while tougher penalties for offenders would also be instituted.

“I’d like to see company directors be held personally accountable if they do the wrong thing, and face big fines and possible jail time,” Littleproud says.

“We need to make sure the regulator has the right tools, training and culture to make sure exporters do the right thing. This requires prosecutions and heavy penalties where breaches occur.”

The footage showed hundreds of sheep from Australia cramped together and dying aboard the squalid ship as it travelled from Australia to the Middle East.

The video, taken by a navigation officer, showed thousands of animals caked in their own faeces fighting to get food and water, while packed in pens in extreme heat.

More than 2 900 sheep in a shipment of 60 000 died over two days last year, during an intense heatwave in the Persian Gulf.

The footage was released by Animals Australia, a group calling for live, long-haul animal exports to be banned.

Littleproud ordered stocking densities to be reduced by 17,5% – the equivalent of freeing up two extra decks on a 10-deck vessel – and an independent state vet to travel with the ship on its next voyage.

The vet will be required to record the health and welfare of all animals on board, send back daily reports and images, and issue directions on the vessel to ensure the welfare of the sheep is ensured.

Watch the video here.

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