Elon Musk's Neuralink denies animal mistreatment, confirms monkey euthanasia

Brain chip company Neuralink has hit back at accusations that it mistreated animals it was experimenting on.

A non-profit organisation filed a complaint with the US Department of Agriculture (USDA) last week, alleging animal mistreatment by Elon Musk's company and the University of California, Davis.

The Physicians Committee for Responsible Medicine (PCRM) has said it believed 15 of the 23 monkeys experimented on died or were euthanised.

Now a blog post on the company's website denies the PCRM's accusations.

"At Neuralink, we are absolutely committed to working with animals in the most humane and ethical way possible," it wrote.

"It is important to note that these accusations come from people who oppose any use of animals in research.

"Currently, all novel medical devices and treatments must be tested in animals before they can be ethically trialled in humans. Neuralink is not unique in this regard."

The company said it had started its studies using both cadavers and 'terminal procedures', which is the "humane euthanasia of an anesthetised animal at the completion of the surgery".

Terminal procedure animals have been deemed by veterinarians to be healthy enough to undergo a single anaesthetic, but otherwise may not live long.

"These animals were assigned to our project on the day of the surgery for our terminal procedure because they had a wide range of pre-existing conditions unrelated to our research."

However, at least part of the PCRM's complaint was true, according to information Neuralink itself released.

Six animals were euthanised after medical advice from veterinary staff at UC Davis, with one due to the use of BioGlue, which was highlighted by the PCRM.

There were also four killed due to device-associated infections and another due to device failure. Another two were euthanised at pre-planned end dates for "important histological data".

"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, who would later be implanted with our Neuralink device and go on to achieve outstanding brain-computer interface performance, while freely behaving and unrestrained, as demonstrated in the Monkey MindPong video."

Neuralink said all animal work done was approved by UC Davis's Institutional Animal Care and Use Committee (IACUC) as mandated by Federal law. It also said it had "never received a citation" from USDA inspections of its facilities and animal care program.