Elon Musk’s medical device company, Neuralink, has once again come under fire for apparent egregious animal-welfare violations. Earlier this year, the company was exposed by the Physicians Committee for Responsible Medicine for botched procedures on monkeys that led to prolonged agony and death. Now Neuralink staff members have alerted the press that animals again needlessly suffered and died because animal testing is being rushed.
The information uncovered is alarming and shows that Neuralink has no business having anything to do with animals. Please join CAARE in calling on the U.S. Department of Agriculture to revoke its research license and shut them down.
The U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Inspector General has opened a federal investigation into potential Animal Welfare Act violations based on documents, emails, reports, and recordings from over 20 former and current employees revealed to Reuters.
The company started experiments in 2018, using animals in invasive brain research to develop a brain-computer interface, claiming the device could help disabled people walk or communicate again. Brain-computer interfaces (or BCIs) attempt to bypass damaged neurological pathways in the brain that result in loss of sensory or motor functions by using computers to analyze brain signals and transmit them to restore functions. There has been considerable research already carried out in this area, a significant portion using ethical human research.
The recent information obtained by Reuters shows that an astounding number of over 1,500 animals, including sheep, pigs, monkeys, mice, and rats, has been killed by Neuralink since 2018. Many of these deaths, employees claim, are a result of botched experiments that had to be repeated. They point to Musk’s continual demands to rush the research as the reason for the abundance of mistakes and blunders.
Employees believe that rushing not only resulted in experiments that needed to be repeated but resulted in more animal suffering and death.
According to reports from Neuralink employees, at least four experiments involving 86 pigs and two monkeys delivered results that were unreliable because of human errors. Neuralink had to repeat those experiments, leading to more deaths. Documents reviewed by Reuters revealed that at least two devices were implanted on the wrong vertebrae of two pigs who then had to be killed to stop their suffering. In a separate incident from 2021, Neuralink staff reported that lack of preparation resulted in the wrong size device implanted in the heads of 25 out of 60 pigs in a study.
These horrific animal experiments are not only cruel, but they are unnecessary. Brain-computer interfaces (BCIs) have been studied using human volunteers and many have already been successfully developed without the use of animals.
At least two decades of human research has led to breakthroughs without using animals, including research at the University of Pittsburgh Brain Institute that enabled a paralyzed man to experience touch through a robotic arm controlled by his brain. Human research at UMC Utrecht Brain Center in 2016 enabled a paralyzed patient to speak using a computer after receiving a BCI implant.
A growing body of research into human BCI’s involves non-surgical devices that make use of electrical brain activity recorded from electrodes placed on the scalp, as used in a standard EEG test. This promising field is leading to BCIs that are unencumbered by problems related to surgical implants.
Many breakthroughs have been developed in this area, including BCIs that combined EEG with virtual reality to enable users to control a wheelchair or robotic arm. Another study used EEG with near-infrared spectroscopy to create BCIs that allowed four patients with ALS to communicate for the first time.
In one extraordinary example, a high school student decided to pursue creating a non-invasive BCI after hearing about it on 60 Minutes. Working on his own from home, he developed a BCI using AI and EEG that allowed users to move a robotic arm with only their mind, winning a variety of awards and funding from Massachusetts Institute of Technology.
It is disappointing that a company like Neuralink, dedicated to finding innovative solutions through advanced technology, and with its vast resources, is ignoring this leading-edge science and has resorted to using outdated and inhumane animal experiments.
Please send your polite letter to USDA to demand that Neuralink is put out of the animal research business forever.
Citizens for Alternatives to Animal Research and Experimentation (CAARE), is a 501(c)(3) non-profit organization, established to highlight and promote research without animals.
Please donate to support CAARE’s mission to reduce animal suffering by disseminating information about the power and progress of research without animals.
CAARE is a proud affiliate of the Center for a Humane Economy, dedicated to forging a humane economic order.