Trade bans put in place over fears that importing pigs and pork products could lead to the spread of swine flu are pointless and should be lifted immediately, according to the World Animal Health Organisation (OIE).

Pigs were not responsible for the start or spead of swine flu, and culling herds would not help protect the public or livestock from the virus, it said.

Moving to allay fears that intensive pig farming was responsible for the global pandemic, the OIE said there was little scientific reason to maintain restrictions placed on pigs and pork products.

“A/H1N1 is indeed a public health issue for all worldwide but so far the role of animals has not been demonstrated in the epidemiology or spread,” OIE director-general Bernard Vallat said.

“The imposition of ban measurers related to the import from countries with human cases of A/H1N1 are pointless and do not comply with international standards published by the OIE,” he added.

However, Mr Vallet said national veterinary services should effectively monitor animal populations for clinical signs of disease.

Several countries, including China and Russia placed immediate bans on importing pigs and pork products from countries affected by the H1N1 virus in April.

The Egyptian government went a step further by culling its entire national herd in a bid to quell panic and protect its population from the disease.