On the heels of Volkswagen AG’s diesel-emissions cheating scandal, the carmaker apologized for using a test that exposed monkeys as test subjects to engine fumes to study the effects of the exhaust.
“We apologize for the misconduct and the lack of judgement of individuals,” Wolfsburg, Germany-based VW said in a statement. “We’re convinced the scientific methods chosen then were wrong. It would have been better to do without such a study in the first place.”
Hindsight is 20/20.
“The organization that commissioned the study, the European Research Group on Environment and Health in the Transport Sector, received all of its funding from Volkswagen, Daimler and BMW,” The New York Times reported.
VW said the group ceased activities last year and the project was never completed. Bloomberg reported on the responses of relevant parties:
“Daimler said separately it would start an investigation into the study ordered by the European Scientific Study Group for the Environment, Health and Transport Sector. BMW too distanced itself from the trial, saying it had taken no part in its design and methods. Bosch said it left the group in 2013.”
“We believe the animal tests in this study were unnecessary and repulsive,” Daimler said in a statement. “We explicitly distance ourselves from the study.”
— Julaine Nickels (@JulaineNickels) January 29, 2018
The trial was still conducted, so someone in power didn’t find it repulsive– or was this a product of contorted groupthink?
The New York Times detailed the scenario explicitly:
“FRANKFURT — In 2014, as evidence mounted about the harmful effects of diesel exhaust on human health, scientists in an Albuquerque laboratory conducted an unusual experiment: Ten monkeys squatted in airtight chambers, watching cartoons for entertainment as they inhaled fumes from a diesel Volkswagen Beetle.”
Apparently, the company financed the experiment to prove that diesel vehicles with updated technology were less harmful following the 2012 finding by the World Health Organization that labelled diesel exhaust a carcinogen. The research group hired the Lovelace Respiratory Research Institute.
“The tests were conducted in 2014 using 10 cynomolgus macaque monkeys, a breed used extensively in medical experiments,” The New York Times reported. “Company engineers supervised the installation of a treadmill that would allow the vehicles to run on rollers while equipment sucked exhaust from the tailpipes.”
The test was ultimately pointless– or rather, the point was to deceive rather than get an accurate representation of the vehicle’s exhaust effects.
“The American scientists conducting the test were unaware of one critical fact: The Beetle provided by Volkswagen had been rigged to produce pollution levels that were far less harmful in the lab than they were on the road,” according to The New York Times. “The results were being deliberately manipulated.”
Not only did the company intentionally cheat on tests, but they financed research to support the falsely-presented product. What motivated Volkswagen to take such a potentially devastating risk?