Volkswagen pledges to halt diesel emissions testing on animals following controversy

by Charles Miller

Volkswagen says that it will no longer test the effects of its diesel exhaust on animal subjects, the company has announced. VW had been embroiled in controversy following reports that the company had tested the effects of its “TDI Clean Diesel” engines on monkeys in a New Mexico laboratory.

Reports that Volkswagen had tested the effects of diesel exhaust on animals came to light in a lawsuit filed against the company over the Dieselgate emissions cheating scandal. In September 2015, Volkswagen admitted that it had installed emissions cheating software on 11 million diesel vehicles – including hundreds of thousands sold in the U.S.

During the lawsuit, documents revealed that Volkswagen and two other automakers had funded a group known as the European Research Group on Environment and Health in the Transport Sector (E.U.G.T.). Although this group did not conduct any research itself, it paid outside scientists to conduct experiments to defend the use of diesel engines in new automobiles.

In August 2016, the E.U.G.T. hired the Lovelace Respiratory Research Institute in Albuquerque, New Mexico to test the dangers of breathing in diesel exhaust from a Volkswagen Beetle. The tests involved placing 10 macaque monkeys inside an airtight chamber that was filled with exhaust from a diesel-powered Volkswagen Beetle. Scientists involved in the tests only later discovered that the VW Beetle used in the tests had been equipped with the same emission cheating software that the German automaker had installed on millions of other vehicles.

During depositions as part of a class action lawsuit filed against Volkswagen over the Dieselgate scandal, scientists from the Lovelace Respiratory Research Institute revealed that they had been paid by the VW-funded E.U.G.T. to conduct tests involving the exposure of monkeys to fumes from a VW Beetle. The revelations set off a wave of protests from animal rights groups, who accused VW if inhuman practices for “[conducting] tests on animals, which are irrelevant to human health and not required by law.”

In a letter sent to the animal rights group PETA, Volkswagen CEO Herbert Diess said that the automaker would halt diesel exhaust testing on animals. Diess also said that VW would institute a new standard of conduct to prohibit animal testing, which would apply to all 12 of the company’s affiliated brands and all 640,000 of its employees worldwide.

Despite these and other efforts to repair its reputation in the wake of the Dieselgate scandal, Volkswagen is still dealing with the fallout from emissions cheating allegations against the company. Last month, former Volkswagen CEO Martin Winterkorn was charged with conspiracy over his role in the company’s Dieselgate emissions cheating. The company is still facing lawsuits from drivers who purchased VW or Audi diesel models involved in the emissions scandal. Volkswagen is also facing a number of shareholder lawsuits that could cost the German automaker $10 billion in damages.

Dieselgate Lawsuit Filed on Behalf of VW, Audi, and Porsche Owners

Drivers who purchased or leased a VW, Audi, or Porsche diesel model involved in the Dieselgate scandal may qualify to file a lawsuit. Consumers who purchased or leased one of the vehicles affected by emissions cheating by these manufacturers may qualify to file a lawsuit.

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by Charles Miller

Charles Miller is a licensed attorney and a partner at Heygood, Orr & Pearson. Charles focuses his practice on areas of complex commercial litigation and personal injury litigation.