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Federal Attorney General Christian Porter says the footage of slaughtered racehorses revealed by the national broadcaster this week was "beyond terrible".
Mr Porter said animal welfare is a state matter but he wants to see a full investigation into offences that may have occurred.
"It was astonishingly bad behaviour," Mr Porter told ABC television on Sunday from the footage he had seen.
It showed the cruellest treatment being undertaken at Slaughterhorses for Export Meat, an abattoir that is licensed to export by the Commonwealth.
"I understand that at least one part of the footage demonstrates a potential breach of the standards that are required under the Commonwealth supervision," Mr Porter said.
He expects Agriculture Minister Bridget McKenzie will have more to say on the issue this week.