Reuters: Musk Firm Has Killed 1.5K Animals in Experiments

Sources say pressure from Musk is leading to rushed Neuralink experiments
By Jenn Gidman,  Newser Staff
Posted Dec 6, 2022 10:00 AM CST
Reuters: Musk Firm Has Killed 1.5K Animals in Experiments
Stock photo of a monkey.   (Getty Images/CCat82)

At a demonstration for Neuralink last week, Elon Musk showed off a test monkey that had one of his company's brain implants inserted. He said "the monkeys actually enjoy doing the demos," and there was nothing evident from the monkey onstage that there was anything amiss. Musk later assured followers on Twitter that "we are now confident that the Neuralink device is ready for humans." Reuters, however, suggests not all the monkeys, or other animals used in Neuralink's studies, have been having a great time. It reports that a federal probe is underway on possible animal-welfare violations at Neuralink, with some staffers complaining that testing is being rushed due to pressure from Musk, and that animals are suffering and dying as a result.

Sources tell Reuters that the investigation, which was opened at the request of a federal prosecutor by the US Department of Agriculture's Inspector General, is probing whether Neuralink tests transgressed 1966's Animal Welfare Act. Although a recent CNN Business report noted that Neuralink "acknowledged that a monkey had died during the testing process," based on its interviews and review of records, Reuters alleges that Neuralink has killed 1,500 animals since 2018, including monkeys, sheep, and pigs. The outlet is careful to note that the deaths don't necessarily mean anything illegal or outside of normal research practices is happening, as animals are often killed for research after experiments.

But both current and ex-Neuralink staffers say the push by Musk to speed things up has created a "pressure-cooker environment" in which errors are made, forcing tests to be repeated and causing unnecessary animal deaths. Several sources say they've heard Musk say repeatedly that staffers should imagine they have a bomb strapped to their heads to spur them to work faster. This isn't the first time that Neuralink has faced allegations of animal abuse.

Insider and Forbes note that earlier this year, the animal rights group Physicians Committee for Responsible Medicine accused the company of causing "extreme suffering" to monkeys who were being used as test subjects. Neuralink responded with a statement expressing its commitment to animal welfare and noting it had "never received a citation from the USDA inspections of our facilities and animal care program." (Read much more from Reuters here.)

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