Thousands of animals died in testing for Elon Musk’s controversial brain chip Neuralink, with many meeting horrific ends.
Documents released from the University of California, Davis in the US – which partnered with the company from 2017 to 2020 to carry out testing – showed monkeys had their skulls drilled into and filled with “Bioglue” after operations. Some had operations on their skulls as many as 10 times before they were euthanised, reports the Daily Mail.
It comes after Musk announced a human had received the chip for the first time, the Daily Star previously reported. Taking to X (formerly Twitter), Musk said: “The first human received an implant from @Neuralink yesterday and is recovering well. Initial results show promising neuron spike detection.”
Surgeons would drill into monkeys’ heads and attach implants to their brains but they didn’t fit properly and would protrude from the animals’ skulls. Death reports obtained by the Physicians Committee for Responsible Medicine and seen by the Daily Star also showed animals had their limbs amputated or suffered repeated vomiting or diarrhea.
Sheep and pigs were also killed during the testing. In total, at least 1,500 animals were killed during these tests alone. The Physicians Committee for Responsible Medicine said the animals went through “extreme suffering” and Neuralink showed a “systematic disregard” for their lives.
“Neuralink has a well-documented history of conducting unnecessary, sloppy experiments in monkeys, pigs, sheep, and other animals that raise serious concerns about the safety of its device,” the company said in a statement. “As such, the public should continue to be skeptical of the safety and functionality of any device produced by Neuralink.”
The documents reveal the monkeys were split into four groups. The first group “will not be allowed to surgically recover (terminal procedure)” following their operations.
Animals were readied for their operations by being given drugs like valium and fentanyl as well as anaesthetics. Then an incision measuring up to 10cm was made on their heads.
Guidelines for the procedure said the fit for each implant “may not be perfect”. It suggested bone screws would be used to keep the chip in place.
Animals would be restrained to chairs using collars for up to five hours in one day as they received the chip. But while the procedure was horrific, the side effects the animals suffered – and the ways some eventually died – may be even more chilling.
One monkey known as “Animal 8” had “multiple digit tips amputated” and had “diarrhea in the first year of life.” It also underwent a vasectomy.
A “burr hole” was created in its head until its brain was visible and an implant was placed on its in a “terminal cranial implant procedure”. The animal “recovered” and was “returned to home cage” before it was euthanised.
An 11-year-old macaque monkey, “Animal 4”, was placed on antidepressants before it was put to sleep in July 2018. Meanwhile an ape called “Animal 6” had the implant installed before it became infected two months later.
Lab staff were forced to use large amounts of antibiotics to clean the wounds. Other monkeys reportedly had seizures or deliberately self-mutilated.
Neuralink has previously claimed it is “absolutely committed to working with animals in the most humane and ethical way possible.” Meanwhile UC Davis previously said that it “follows all applicable laws and regulations.”
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