The Department of Agriculture is investigating a complaint Australian cattle are being killed with sledgehammers in Vietnam.
Animal activists are calling for an end to the live cattle trade to Vietnam where they claim Australian stock are being slaughtered with sledgehammers.
But the federal government says it won't stop the live trade and the Department of Agriculture is checking if the latest incident relates to other complaints.
Vision obtained by animal activists allegedly shows cattle being hit repeatedly to the head to stun them before slaughter, or being killed directly by the sledgehammer blow.
Animals Australia is withholding footage of the incident - understood to have occurred in April - from public release because they say it is so shocking.
"Being killed by having your skull shattered by a sledgehammer would have to be one of the most horrific ways to die," a spokeswoman said in a statement.
The killing of cattle and buffaloes through repeated blows to the head with a sledgehammer is a traditional method of slaughter in Vietnam.
"When Australian cattle are sold outside approved supply chains, this is the treatment that awaits them," she said.
The RSPCA wants trade to halt while an independent review is carried out, arguing the Vietnamese market has been plagued by problems since it was approved under animal welfare regulations two years ago.
"What new twist on this appalling cruelty will it take to make (Agriculture) Minister Barnaby Joyce step up and take action," a spokeswoman said.
A spokesman for the minister said the latest complaint would be assessed to determine if it related to three previous reports of breaches in Vietnam now subject to formal review.
The government would not jump on calls for trade suspension, but would work with industry to ensure breaches are rectified.
"The Australian government remains totally committed to the live export trade, and when problems arise we deal with the specific problems - we don't shut down an entire industry," the spokesman said.