Elon Musk’s Neuralink Corporation is under federal investigation for possible animal welfare violations, according to a Tuesday report from Reuters.
Neuralink, a neurotechnology company that is developing implantable computer interfaces in brains, is being looked into by the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Inspector General after members of the company’s staff complained that Neuralink is rushing testing and causing undue suffering and deaths among its animal test subjects.
The alleged investigation by the USDA pertains to potential violations of the Animal Welfare Act, which regulates how animals are treated during research testing, according to the report.
The report goes on to say that Neuralink employees were complaining about a rushed testing edict from Musk, who is the company’s founder and owner, resulting in several failed tests and animal deaths, citing official company communication documents.
Neuralink has passed all USDA inspections of its facilities, according to the report.
Representatives from Neuralink and the USDA did not respond to MarketWatch’s request for comment on this story.
The investigation comes as Musk announced last week that he believes Neuralink will implant one of its devices in a human brain within the next six months. Musk previously said he was pushing for human trials to begin in 2020, which he later changed to 2022, according to The Verge. Now that date has moved to 2023.
Neuralink currently uses sheep, pigs, rats, mice and monkeys for its testing, and has not been awarded permission for human trials by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA).
One of Neuralink’s stated goals is to be able to restore brain activity for some individuals who suffer from spinal cord injuries, as well as cure neurological disease including Alzheimer’s and dementia.
“Before we would even think of putting a device in an animal, we do everything possible with rigorous benchtop testing. We’re not cavalier about putting these devices into animals,” Musk said at a November Neuralink event. “We’re extremely careful and we always want the device, whenever we do the implant — whether into a sheep, pig or monkey — to be confirmatory, not exploratory.”