Elon Musk’s company kills 1,500 animals while testing brain chips

According to Reuters news agency, medical device company Neuralink of Elon Musk is being investigated for possible animal rights violations. The company’s employees complain their animal tests were rushed, leading to unnecessary pain and death.

Neuralink are developing chips to implant in the brain, helping paralyzed people walk or blind people see. A Reuters source revealed that the Agriculture Department’s Inspector General opened an investigation at the request of a federal prosecutor. It focuses on violations of the Animal Welfare Act, which governs the treatment and testing of certain animals by researchers.

Neuralink was founded by Elon Musk in 2016. (Photo: Shutterstock)

A review of dozens of Neuralink documents combined with interviews with more than 20 former and new employees shows that employees are increasingly dissatisfied with animal testing. They complained that pressure from Elon Musk made the process speed up, leading to failed tests. The number of animals tested and casualties increased with the number of trials.

In total, according to Reuters, Neuralink has killed about 1,500 animals, including more than 280 goats, pigs and monkeys since the start of the 2018 test. Sources say this is only a rough estimate because the company does not keep accurate records of the number of animals tested and killed. Neuralink was also studied in rats and mice.

However, Reuters notes that the number of dead animals does not necessarily indicate that Neuralink violated regulation or standard research practice. Many companies regularly test on animals to find ways to care for people’s health. They also face financial pressure to bring their products to market quickly.

However, according to former and new Neuralink employees, the number of dead animals was higher than necessary for a number of reasons related to Musk’s need to speed up his research. Through the documents, Reuters identified four experiments involving 86 pigs and two monkeys that had failed in recent years due to human error. Three of the employees disclosed the mistake that undermined the research value of the experiment and had to repeat the experiment, resulting in more animals being killed. Three people believe that errors are caused by employees working in an over-pressurized environment.

Musk is working hard to speed things up at Neuralink, which relies heavily on animal testing. For example, he sent a letter to staff at 6:37 a.m. on February 8 with an article about Swiss researchers developing an implantable device that helps a paralyzed man walk. Ten minutes later, he sent another email, complaining that the company wasn’t making progress fast enough and that it was driving him “crazy”.

According to Reuters, many problems during Neuralink’s testing caused internal doubts about the quality of the resulting data. They could delay human testing, which Musk hopes will happen in the next six months.

Musk has grown increasingly impatient with Neuralink, a company he founded in 2016 because he was late for important goals. Meanwhile, some of their opponents have achieved many achievements. For example, Synchron – which came out the same year – is developing another implant with less ambitious goals. Synchron has been approved by the US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) for human testing in 2021. Their device helps paralyzed people text and enter data just by thinking. They also conducted animal tests but only killed about 80 sheep during the study.

In some ways, Neuralink treats the animals quite well compared to other research facilities. Company leaders boast about a “Disneyland for monkeys” at the lab in Austin, Texas. A former employee revealed that Musk said he didn’t want to use animals for research, but wanted to make sure they were “the happiest animals” alive.

(According to Reuters)

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