Australia has temporarily suspended live animal exports to Egypt after revelations about malpractice in one of the country’s abattoirs.

Secret footage from inside the Bassatin abattoir in Cairo, filmed by welfare group Animals Australia, showed cattle being beaten, dragged to the ground and having their throats slit without stunning.

Slaughter and carcass dressing took place in the same area, against international guidelines.

The film was broadcast on Australian TV programme 60 Minutes, prompting Australian agriculture minister Peter McGauran to suspend the trade, pending a full investigation.

“While it has not been confirmed these are Australian cattle, the practices are totally unacceptable,” said Mr McGauran.

“I have personally brought the content to the attention of the Egyptian minister for agriculture and my department’s Middle East vet has travelled to Egypt to investigate.

Australia will not send further livestock to Egypt until these matters have been resolved.”

Animal welfare groups have welcomed the suspension and are calling for Australia to make the ban permanent.

“There is no good reason why animals could not be killed in Australia and the meat exported instead,” said Carole de Fraga, head of Compassion in World Farming Australia.

But industry body, Meat and Livestock Australia, has insisted the cattle in the film were not Australian.

“These were wildly inaccurate allegations made by an extremist group,” said chief executive Cameron Hall.

He also criticised the film for failing to point out the welfare improvements that had taken place in Egypt, largely thanks to Australian investment.

“Our standards are the best in the world,” he said.

“If we pull out, there will be no one providing technical assistance and training to employees at Bassatin.

Animal welfare across the region will go down.”

The Egyptian General Organisation of Veterinary Services has dismissed the film as a “one-off incident”.

philip.clarke@rbi.co.uk