Elon Musk's Neuralink has pushed back against claims that its test monkeys endured illegal mistreatment and 'extreme suffering'

Elon Musk's Neuralink has pushed back against claims that its test monkeys endured illegal mistreatment and 'extreme suffering'
Elon Musk cofounded Neuralink.Vachira Vachira/NurPhoto via Getty Images/Pool/Getty Images
  • Elon Musk's biotech company Neuralink has pushed back against a complaint from an animal-rights group.
  • The group said monkeys used in Neuralink tests between 2017 and 2020 endured "extreme suffering."

Neuralink, the Elon Musk-owned biotech company that's developing brain implants for humans, has pushed back against accusations from an animal-rights group that its test monkeys were mistreated.

The Physicians Committee for Responsible Medicine (PCRM) said last week it had submitted a complaint to the US Department of Agriculture in which it accuses researchers of violating the Animal Welfare Act while testing Neuralink devices on 23 macaque monkeys. The monkeys in question were housed at a primate research facility at the University of California at Davis between 2017 and 2020.

Neuralink is developing a chip that would be embedded in a person's skull and linked to electrodes that fan out into their brain. The electrodes would be able to monitor and potentially stimulate brain activity.

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A draft complaint by the PCRM, seen last week by Insider, said the 23 monkeys housed at UC Davis experienced "extreme suffering as a result of inadequate animal care and the highly invasive experimental head implants."

Neuralink responded in a lengthy blog post published Monday.


"It is important to note that these accusations come from people who oppose any use of animals in research," Neuralink said, adding: "We are absolutely committed to working with animals in the most humane and ethical way possible."

Neuralink said in the blog post that it relied on UC Davis to house and care for its monkeys while it built its own in-house primate testing facility, which opened in 2020.

"Once construction of our in-house facility was completed, we were able to bring some unimplanted macaques from UC Davis with us to Neuralink," the company said. This included Pager, a macaque monkey used in a video demonstration of Neuralink's technology in April 2021, the company said.

Neuralink said in the blog post: "We also look forward to a day where animals are no longer necessary for medical research. Yet our society currently relies on medical breakthroughs to cure diseases, prevent the spread of viruses, and create technology that can change how people are able to interact with the world."

Neuralink is developing a robot to perform the surgery required to get its implants into human brains. The company has yet to begin human trials.