A few months ago, hundreds of disturbing photos of monkey tests from Neuralink were released on the internet – sparking outraged reactions including from doctors. However, it seems that the American authorities have decided to open an investigation to determine if indeed the company of Elon Musk has engaged in animal abuse.
Among what Neuralink is accused of: testimonials that speak of “unjustified” animal suffering as well as staff complaints that evoke management pressure to speed up the tests. According to these testimonies, internally, deadlines are sometimes difficult to meet, leading to blunders. The investigation is entrusted to the General Bureau of Investigations of the Department of Agriculture.
Neuralink targeted by a complaint because of its tests on animals
Neuralink was launched in 2016 with the aim of developing an implant capable of removing the barrier between the brain and the computer. Beyond Neuralink also has a medical purpose, such as treating paralysis or blindness with the same chip technology. However, Neuralink’s research has caused an impressive number of dead animals.
In all, since 2018, Neuralink has killed some 1,500 animals in tests, including 280 goats, pigs and monkeys. The rest being mostly lab rats. To give an order of magnitude, American research kills some 800,000 animals each year.
The question is to assess whether these deaths were really necessary, or whether animal welfare was really taken into account in all research protocols. The department’s investigation office will, for its part, verify that the firm’s practices are indeed confirmed by the Animal Welfare Act, which codifies precisely how this type of animal testing must be carried out.
For its part, the startup defends itself from any mistreatment and even committed itself last February to the question, in a blog post. The firm had then admitted six euthanasias on the advice of the veterinary teams of the UC Davis partner of Neuralink. Despite this bad press, Neuralink seems ready to move on to clinical testing on humans.
During Neuralink’s last “show and tell” on November 30, 2022, Elon Musk talked about human testing in the next six months. However, the exact deadlines for the start of these tests remain a mystery because the firm must still obtain authorization from the U.S. Food and Drug Administration the American equivalent of the drug authority.