Reuters cited sources familiar with the investigation and company operations. The sources said the Agriculture Department opened the probe at a request of a federal prosecutor.
The Reuters report described a high-pressure environment at Neuralink in which errors resulted in the need to repeat experiments, with more animals losing their lives as a result.
Reuters said it did not receive a response back from Musk and Neuralink. However, the company has an entire webpage about its commitment to animal welfare. It mentions that the company has never received a USDA citation. The webpage says:
“In the present day, we at Neuralink are privileged to have the resources and support to set up something very different and new. Our central mission is to design an animal care program prioritizing the needs of the animals, rather than the typical strategy of building for human convenience alone. In 2020, we opened our 6,000 sq ft vivarium, housing farm animals and rhesus macaques. The vivarium is staffed with caretakers who are passionate about animal well-being, which is a central tenet of Neuralink’s philosophy.”
Last week, Musk hosted a Neuralink show-and-tell that streamed online.
“The monkeys enjoy doing the demo, and they get the banana smoothie, and it’s a fun game,” Musk said. He added that implants had only gone into monkeys after exhaustive benchtop testing. He seemed to be trying to dispel previous criticism that Neuralink had caused animals to suffer.
Brain-computer interfaces are a hot space. (Here are seven companies you need to know.) Musk said last week that Neuralink plans the first in-human implant of its N1 device within the next six months.