Elon Musk's Neuralink facing federal probe for possible 'violations of the Animal Welfare Act'

Elon Musk's Neuralink facing federal probe for possible 'violations of the Animal Welfare Act'
Image via Creative Commons.

Most of the Elon Musk-related headlines of recent months have pertained to his activities as the new owner of Twitter, which has been in a state of chaos since he took over — from the firings of long-time executives to controversial new policies with content moderation. But the billionaire has had many other business activities as well, from Tesla to Neuralink. Founded by Musk in 2016, Neuralink has been developing small computer chips that are designed to be implanted in a person’s brain and help people suffering from neurological disorders or paralysis.

Neuralink, according to Reuters, is now facing a federal investigation for its treatment of animals. On December 5, Reuters reported that the office of the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s inspector general was investigating Neuralink for possible “violations of the Animal Welfare Act, which governs how researchers treat and test some animals.”

According to Reuters’ Rachael Levy, “The investigation has come at a time of growing employee dissent about Neuralink’s animal testing, including complaints that pressure from CEO Musk to accelerate development has resulted in botched experiments, according to a Reuters review of dozens of Neuralink documents and interviews with more than 20 current and former employees. Such failed tests have had to be repeated, increasing the number of animals being tested and killed, the employees say. The company documents include previously unreported messages, audio recordings, e-mails, presentations and reports.”

READ MORE:Elon Musk’s epic bumbling is a daily reminder that America is not a meritocracy

Reuters, Levy reported, “could not determine the full scope of the federal investigation or whether it involved the same alleged problems with animal testing identified by employees in Reuters interviews.”

More reporting on the investigation of Neuralink came from Fortune’s Chloe Taylor the following day.

“Current and former employees told (Reuters) that Musk was pushing hard for faster progress at Neuralink, telling employees in a February e-mail: ‘In general, we are simply not moving fast enough. It is driving me nuts!’” Taylor reports. “That internal memo reportedly came 10 minutes after another message from Musk that included a news article about Swiss scientists whose electrical implant helped a paralyzed man to walk.”

Taylor adds, “The Reuters report builds on interviews Fortune carried out in January with former Neuralink employees, who described ‘an enterprise marked by internal tensions and erratic management,’ as well as accusations from animal rights groups of abuse, including ‘invasive and deadly brain experiments’ on monkeys. The company later admitted it had killed eight monkeys during research experiments. Last year, Neuralink released footage of what it said showed a monkey’s intended hand movements being translated to allow it to play a computer game, and in 2020, the company said it had successfully implanted a chip in the brain of a pig named Gertrude.”

READ MORE: Tech CEOs echo Elon Musk's steep demands for workers

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