Invisible Dust

London | Tuesday 16 July
Pollution level: Moderate

Volkswagen Diesel Scandal: Animal Cruelty Affects the Environment Too


On Tuesday January 30th, it was revealed that the car-making company Volkswagen had previously carried out experiments that used animals to demonstrate the pollutant levels present in nitrogen oxide car emissions.

The fume tests involved 10 Java monkeys being locked in cramped and airtight chambers, whilst they breathed in diesel fumes from a Volkswagen car. The aim of the experiments, carried out in May 2015, was to demonstrate how modern cleaning technology has reduced nitrogen oxide pollution levels in the diesel in Volkswagen car motors. It is believed that similar studies have also been done to research the effects of tobacco.

The evidence was initially reported by the New York Times who explained:

“The results were being deliberately manipulated. The Albuquerque monkey research, which has not been previously reported, is a new dimension in a global emissions scandal that has already forced Volkswagen to plead guilty to federal fraud and conspiracy charges in the United States and to pay more than $26 billion in fines.”

In light of the news, VW’s head of external relations and sustainability – Thomas Steg – who was proven to have known about the testing, has been suspended. Steg formerly worked with the German chancellor Angela Merkel, and the scandal has prompted the Green Party to call for the issue to be debated in the Bundestag (German federal parliament), and for there to be more transparency in the future about the car industry and its ‘dubious methods’- said Britta Hasselmann, leader of the party group.

diesel“A protester wears a mask and a placard reading ‘diesel emissions kill’ in front of the German transport ministry in Berlin.
Photograph: Clemens Bilan/EPA” Via the Guardian

Not only are animal rights a political environmental issue, but the process of testing on animals also has extremely hazardous effects on the planet. As national animal advocacy organization, Neaves reports:

“Millions of animals are bred, used, and ultimately disposed of as dangerous or potentially dangerous waste in research and toxicity testing. Estimates for global annual use in research and testing are variable, with the most comprehensive estimates ranging from 115.3 million to 126.9 million non-human vertebrate animals. Both estimates are considered conservative.”

Despite laying the blame on Steg, VW cannot distance itself from this scandal, even if the company refuses to be held accountable. Outrage from environmental and animal-rights activists is renewed, following on from large protests against VW in 2012 with the launch of their new Golf model, critiquing its high energy consumption. This post-2012 effort towards ‘clean carbon’ on VW’s behalf by testing on caged monkeys, can be read as an ill-chosen response, which displaces and exacerbates environmental issues rather than reducing them.

Volkswagen Golf Launch Protest in BerlinProtest bei der Golf VII Praesentation“50 Greenpeace volunteers protest against the high fuel consumption of the new Volkswagen Golf VII, during its official launch by VW at the Neue Nationalgalerie in Berlin. The activists hold placards and banners bearing the messages: “The new VW Golf: Failing the Climate” and “VW Das Problem” in German, French and English.09/04/2012” © Gordon Welters / Greenpeace


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