The medical company Neuralink, one of Elon Musk’s companies, is under federal investigation for possible violations of animal welfare laws. There have been several complaints from internal staff that animal testing is being rushed, resulting in unnecessary suffering and death. This can be seen from the documents studied by the Reuters news agency.
The research comes at a time of growing employee dissatisfaction with Neuralink’s animal testing. There have been complaints that Musk is putting a lot of pressure on employees to speed up development. This would lead to failed experiments, according to a Reuters study, which also conducted 20 interviews with current and former employees. Company documents that Reuters could access included messages, audio recordings, emails, presentations and reports.
Neuralink is developing a brain implant that will help paralyzed people walk again and treat other neurological disorders. The federal investigation was opened in recent months by the inspector general of the US Department of Agriculture at the request of a federal prosecutor. The investigation focuses on violations of the animal welfare law. This law regulates how researchers must treat and test animals.
Reuters has uncovered four experiments in which 86 pigs and 2 monkeys died due to human error. The errors weakened the research value of the experiments, requiring repetition of the experiments. This killed more animals than necessary, according to three former employees. A report available to Reuters said undertrained and overworked staff were constantly rushing to meet deadlines and make last-minute changes ahead of operations. This presented many risks to the animals.
Musk and other Neuralink executives did not respond to requests for comment. Reuters was unable to determine the full extent of the federal investigation. U.S. regulations don’t specify how many animals companies can use for research and give scientists a lot of leeway to determine when and how to use animals for experiments. Neuralink has passed all United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) inspections of its facilities, as evidenced by the submitted documents.
1,500 animals killed
In total, the company has killed around 1,500 animals since 2018, including more than 280 sheep, pigs and monkeys. Sources have characterized that figure as a rough estimate because the company does not keep precise records of the number of animals tested and killed. Neuralink has also conducted research on rats and mice.
The total number of dead animals does not necessarily mean that Neuralink is in violation of research practice regulations. Many companies routinely use animals in experiments to advance human health care and are under financial pressure to get products to market quickly. Animals are usually killed when experiments are completed, often for post-mortem examination for research purposes.
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