Elon Musk's Neuralink is accused of subjecting monkeys to extreme suffering

At least 15 out of 23 died?
Loukia Papadopoulos
a monkey behind a cage.atbaei/iStock

Monkeys are used for all kinds of experiments, but in most cases, the research they are subjected to is humane.

This may not be the case for Elon Musk's biotech company Neuralink, according to a recent report by Business Insider.

An animal-rights group is accusing the firm of putting its test monkeys through illegal mistreatment and even "extreme suffering."

Inhumane treatment

The Physicians Committee for Responsible Medicine (PCRM), an animal-rights group, filed a draft regulatory complaint with the U.S. Department of Agriculture on Thursday in which it claimed it had proof that the monkeys at Neuralink experienced "extreme suffering as a result of inadequate animal care and the highly invasive experimental head implants during the experiments."

The PCRM further added that it had more than 700 pages of documents proving its allegations. These had been obtained through a public-records request to the university UC Davis that was cooperating with Neuralink.

The PCRM accused both the institution and Neuralink of nine violations of the Animal Welfare Act. Perhaps the most shocking of its examples was that of a monkey having missing fingers and toes "possibly from self-mutilation or some other unspecified trauma."

Out of a total of 23 monkeys being experimented on by both organizations, only seven were still alive in 2020 when Neuralink ended its relationship with UC Davis. This is very shocking if you consider the fact that none of these monkeys were being subjected to any experiments that would result in death.

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Testing on humans?

Neuralink is working on a brain chip that when embedded in mammals can augment brain activity. Once installed, it can for example assist with motor functions for people with paralysis, carrying out day-to-day tasks, using computers, playing video games, and more.

In April of 2021, Neuralink released a video of a monkey playing pong with its mind using a Neuralink chip. The firm claimed it was moving closer to testing its chips on humans.

However, if PCRM's allegations prove to be true, this will definitely delay Neuralink's plans not only because of safety concerns but also because the animal rights group is planning to file a lawsuit against the firm. We reached out to Neuralink for comments on the matter but have not yet received a reply. We will be updating this story as it develops.