Volkswagen suspends executive over use of monkeys in exhaust experiments

In addition, according to a press release on the Volkswagen Group's media website, the Board of Management suspended Dr. Thomas Steg, Head of Group External Relations and Sustainability.

Volkswagen suspended its chief lobbyist Tuesday amid a growing furor over experiments on monkeys that were meant to promote the virtues of diesel-powered vehicles, but now threaten to further undermine the German auto industry and to increase political instability in Berlin.

"We believe the animal tests in this study were unnecessary and repulsive", Daimler said in a statement. Chancellor Angela Merkel's spokesman, Steffen Seibert, said "these tests on monkeys or even humans can not be justified ethically in any way", while Environment Minister Barbara Hendricks called the experiments "abominable".

The EUGT, or European Research Group on Environment and Health in the Transport Sector, was a research body founded and funded by Volkswagen, the BMW Group, and Daimler, the parent of the Mercedes-Benz and Smart brands.

Initially reported in the New York Times, the tests, carried out in May 2015 by the New Mexico-based Lovelace Respiratory Research Institute (LRRI), involved locking 10 Java monkeys in small airtight chambers for four hours at a time.

The German government on January 29 condemned the experiments and Volkswagen sought to distance itself from them, with its chairman saying that "in the name of the whole board I emphatically disavow such practices".

The move follows a report that the test was used to show how Volkswagen's diesel technology was succeeding in controlling emissions.

'Mr. Steg has declared he was taking full responsibility.

'The indignation felt by many people is completely understandable'.

The tests were also denounced by both Daimler and BMW.

Volkswagen's current CEO, Matthias Mueller, said in the VW statement that "we are investigating in detail the work of EUGT, which was dissolved in 2017, and drawing the necessary conclusions".

The details and the objective of the study could not be confirmed and EUGT, which previous year was dissolved, was unavailable for comment.

Amid the controversy, Berlin's Tageszeitung daily said that "while these experiments are doubtless scandalous, the bigger scandal is the experiment the auto industry has been conducting on the wider population for decades". Another experiment saw 25 healthy humans breathing in different levels of nitrogen dioxide, according to a report by German daily newspaper The Stuttgarter Zeitung.

"We understood that the EUGT organization was financially supported by automobile manufacturers, but we believed the goal of the study was to advance the scientific understanding of the effects of diesel fumes on our lungs, including the effects of new vehicle technologies that are created to produce less pollution", he said.

"On the emissions tests thing case, what I have to say is that we are shocked by the news as everybody else".

'While the monkeys and human volunteers only had to inhale exhaust fumes for a few hours, people with the misfortune to walk along arterial roads have been breathing in levels of nitrogen oxide far higher than European Union limits for years'.

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