BMW, Daimler and Volkswagen admit using caged monkeys in diesel emission tests

Volkswagen alleged to have rigged experiment with monkeys to show safe level of emissions

Controversy has erupted after reports revealed German carmakers have collaborated on experiments in which monkeys and human participants were intentionally exposed to toxic diesel fumes.

It said 10 were locked into airtight chambers for each test and given cartoons to watch. In a bid to illustrate that diesel vehicle emissions were not that harmful to humans, VW commissioned the European Research Group on Environment and Health in the Transport Sector, to conduct experiments and produce data proving that modern turbodiesel engines, did not imperil the health of pedestrians.

Health impact research done by EUGT, a body funded by Volkswagen, Daimler and BMW, has today been denounced by the German government as "abominable" after reports emerged that animals were used to carry out exhaust fumes experiments. Things changed in June 2012 when the World Health Organization labeled the exhaust emissions generated by diesel engines as being "carcinogenic to humans", thus forcing those involved in organizing these tests to resort to something else.

"We apologize for the misconduct and the lack of judgment of individuals", Volkswagen said in a statement. Barbara Hendricks, the German environment minister, described the experiments as "abominable".

"It's torturous and unjustified", bioethics professor Kerry Bowman of the University of Toronto said in an interview, "and what they were trying to prove is not completely clear".

Volkswagen's advisory board has called for an investigation into the activities of the now defunct organisation and the sub-contracted research companies it hired, including the Lovelace Respiratory Research Institute, New Mexico.

Reports of the tests, following a New York Times account of similar experiments on monkeys in the USA, triggered political recriminations and had automakers scrambling to distance themselves.

Over the weekend, Volkswagen said it "explicitly distances itself from all forms of animal cruelty" as "animal testing contradicts our own ethical standards". We condemn the experiments in the strongest terms. The trials were "abhorrent and repulsive", Stephan Weil, prime minister of Lower Saxony and a member of VW's supervisory board, said.

VW is no stranger to controversy over the fuel - with the so-called dieselgate scandal gripping the carmaker and wider industry in 2015 when it admitted fitting software created to cheat emissions testing to 11 million vehicles.

Record vehicle sales in 2017 provided evidence that VW's popularity with consumers has not been hurt by "dieselgate", but analysts said the revelations about the diesel exhaust tests could seriously undermine the carmaker's transparency drive, a pillar of its post-dieselgate transformation.

All in all, ten monkeys and some 25 healthy human beings are reported to have been subject to the experiments.

The results of the tests, which were carried out in the western German city of Aachen, have not been released, but one of the scientists involved said they were of "limited value" as the findings would not apply to the general population and nitrogen oxides are not the only harmful chemicals in diesel exhaust.

Volkswagen has pledged never to test with animals again, Thomas Steg, VW's chief lobbyist, told German daily Bild in an interview to be published on Tuesday.

According to the director of the study, the Lovelace Respiratory Research Institute was contracted to conduct the study, which saw monkeys gassed for four hours by EUGT under Volkswagen Group responsibility.

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