German automaker Volkswagen came under fire earlier this year for funding an experiment subjecting macaque monkeys to diesel fumes — tests PETA described as cruel and outrageous. But PETA has also just announced a victory: CEO Herbert Diess told PETA Germany the company would “never again use animals in testing unless required to do so by law.”
In January, the New York Times reported on a study involving 10 macaque monkeys at the Lovelace Respiratory Research Institute (LRRI) in Albuquerque, New Mexico. In the experiment, equipment pulled exhaust from tailpipes of a Volkswagen Beetle and a 1999 Ford pickup. The gas was diluted and sent into airtight chambers where the monkeys were kept. The laboratory played cartoons for the monkeys as they sat for four hours breathing fumes. The Beetle used, provided by Volkswagen, had been rigged to generate pollution levels less harmful in a laboratory than on a street.
The European Research Group on Environment and Health in the Transport Sector (EUGT), funded by Volkswagen, BMW, and Daimler, commissioned the Albuquerque experiment. The group shut down in 2017 during controversy about its work. EUGT wanted the Albuquerque experiment to challenge a World Health Organization finding that classified diesel exhaust as a carcinogen.
PETA said due to biological and genetic differences between monkeys and humans, “the results of experiments on them are useless in predicting human responses to things like inhaling diesel exhaust.” They also said LRRI has a history of abusing and neglecting animals.
Diess told PETA Germany that Volkswagen will update their code of conduct later in 2018 with the ban on animal testing. PETA credited the victory to communications with company executives, protests at Volkswagen headquarters, and emails sent to the car company. They said over 160,000 people in the United States alone took action.
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