A report into live sheep exports during the northern hemisphere summer has been released amid growing support for a private member's bill to end the trade.
Live sheep exports to the Middle East during the northern hemisphere summer won't be banned, but stocking densities on transport ships will be improved.
Federal Agriculture Minister David Littleproud has accepted the recommendations of a review by livestock vet Michael McCarthy's, including a 28 per cent reduction in stocking density for voyages during the hottest part of the year.
He also confirmed there would be harsh new penalties for dodgy exporters, with jail terms of up to 10 years and multi-million dollar fines.
"No sane human being would see animal cruelty as something they would accept," Mr Littleproud told reporters in Sydney on Thursday.
The minister had commissioned the review into live sheep exports after horrific footage was released showing sheep dying on a ship from Western Australia to the Middle East in 2016.
As per the recommendations, there will be harsh new penalties for dodgy exporters, with jail terms of up to 10 years for company directors and individuals.
Despite repeatedly promising to be guided by science, the Turnbull government will permit high-risk sheep shipments to the Middle East during the heat stress period, against the recommendation of the Australian Veterinary Association.
"This is an appalling breach of faith with the Australian community who took the Turnbull government at their word," said Lyn White from Animals Australia.
"Instead of backing the science as promised, the Turnbull government is backing a compromised vet and a disgraced industry, effectively green-lighting its ability to inflict further suffering."
"Had the AVA, or any independent expert, been engaged to conduct this review, the outcome would have been no shipments between May and October."
The cornerstone of Minister David Littleproud's announcement today was that sheep on dangerous summer shipments will be given more space. This equates to less than two A4 pieces of paper per sheep and will not prevent sheep from suffering severe heat stress.
"This is a lily-livered government response designed to protect exporters not animals."
"Good luck convincing an outraged Australian public that putting 40,000 sheep through the horrors of heat stress instead of 60,000 is acceptable government policy."
"If you leave one dog in a hot car in Australia you will be fined or jailed but exporters can condemn Australian sheep en masse to the very same suffering and call this a business."
By allowing the May to October shipments Minister Littleproud has gone from publicly censuring his own Department for regulatory failures, to actively condoning breaches of Australian law.
"A regulatory requirement for the granting of export permits is that 'travel arrangements are adequate for the health and welfare of animals'. The AVA, the lead veterinary authority in this country, says they are not.
"How therefore can export permits be granted?"
"The poor sheep had no chance. Their fate was in the hands of a compromised live export vet and a compromised government which has, for decades, shackled itself to a trade that disgusts most Australians."
"This announcement just confirms how out of touch the Turnbull government is. The public hates broken promises, and they hate animal cruelty. The government now stands rightfully accused of both."
"Australians will never forget the sight of sheep gasping for breath, covered in excrement and literally cooking from the inside out. They will rightly feel utterly let down by this review and the Turnbull government's preparedness to subject animals again to this abuse," said Ms White.