Neuralink, Elon Musk’s company, is under federal investigation for potential animal welfare violations. Employees complained that the company’s tests were being rushed, causing unnecessary suffering and death.
Neuralink under investigation
A few days ago, Elon Musk announced that his company Neuralink, which develops brain chips, will soon begin clinical trials on humans. The brain implant is ultimately intended to help people with various neurological diseases, as well as restore vision. Until now, the tests were conducted only on animals and caused numerous controversies.
According to information from the Reuters portal, Neuralink has been the subject of a federal investigation launched by the inspector general of the US Department of Agriculture at the request of a federal prosecutor in recent months. It’s all about violation of the Animal Protection Act. The service reviewed dozens of company documents (including previously unreported messages, audio recordings, emails, presentations and reports) and interviews with more than 20 current and former employees.
The investigation began amid growing employee opposition to Neuralink’s animal testing, including complaints that are putting pressure on CEO Musk to speed up development, Reuters reported. led to failed experiments. The tests then had to be repeated, increasing the number of animals tested and killed.
How many animals are affected by the Neuralink research?
Reuters was unable to determine the full scope of the federal investigation or whether it is addressing the same animal testing issues identified by employees in interviews. US regulations do not limit how many animals companies can use in research and give scientists considerable freedom in determining when and how to use animals in experiments. According to regulatory filings, Neuralink has passed all USDA inspections of its facilities.
In total, the company has killed about 1,500 animals, including more than 280 sheep, pigs and monkeys, following experiments conducted since 2018. Sources cited this figure as a rough estimate because the company does not keep accurate records of the number of animals tested and killed. Neuralink has also conducted studies on rats and mice.
The total number of animal deaths does not necessarily mean that Neuralink is violating regulations or standard research practices. Many companies routinely use animals in experiments to improve human health care and face financial pressure to bring products to market quickly. Animals are usually killed at the end of the experiment, often so that they can be examined post-mortem for research purposes.
This is claimed by current and former employees of Neuralink the number of animal deaths is higher than it should be for reasons related to Musk’s requests to accelerate research. Through discussions and company documents spanning several years, as well as interviews with employees, Reuters identified four experiments involving 86 pigs and two monkeys, which in recent years have been marked by human errors, weakening the research value of the experiments. This required repeated testing, leading to more animals being killed.
One former employee who asked management for more careful testing several years ago was told by a senior executive that it was not possible given Musk’s demands for speed. Two people left the company due to concerns about animal research.
Elon Musk and other Neuralink executives did not respond to a Reuters request for comment.