Volkswagen suspends lobbyist over animal testing

Volkswagen emissions © Alan Levine
© Alan Levine

Volkswagen has taken responsibility for tests carried out by German association EUGT, which involved humans and monkeys inhaling diesel exhaust fumes.

The New York Times reported last week on EUGT tests carried out in 2014, which subjected ten monkeys to diesel fumes from various cars in an airtight chamber. A further report by the Stuttgarter Zeitung reported that 25 people had participated in a later experiment in which they also inhaled diesel fumes.

Following these reports, Volkswagen’s chief lobbyist, Thomas Steg, has admitted that he had known in advance about the monkey experiment. He expressed regret that the experiment went ahead, and said he accepted full responsibility.

Volkswagen has suspended Steg, and chief executive Matthias Mueller told Spiegel Online that the methods used in the testing were “wrong; they were unethical and repulsive”. He apologised for the company’s involvement with EUGT.

How have others responded to the reports?

EUGT has also been funded by Daimler and BMW, but was dissolved by the car manufacturers last year. Both companies have now taken steps to distance themselves from the studies.

Daimler has said that, although it did not have any influence over the design of the study, it has launched a comprehensive investigation. The company said in a statement that the ethical approach of the study ‘contradicts our values and ethical principles’ and that it wanted to expressly distance itself from the EUGT.

The German government also denounced the experiments, with environment minister Barbara Hendricks calling the experiments “abominable”. Chancellor Angela Merkel’s spokesperson referred to the experiments as ethically unjustifiable.

What was the purpose of the research?

The EUGT tests were commissioned by the car companies to demonstrate that technological advancements had cut the emissions from diesel engines to safe levels. Testing on monkeys took place in the US, while the tests with human participants were carried out in Aachen, Germany.

According to the BBC, the Aachen University Clinic insisted that its experiments were ethically approved. However, the German government is concerned that the involvement of company sponsorship means the research was not independent.

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