Neuralink, the medical device company owned by Elon Musk, is under investigation from a federal agency for alleged animal welfare violations, Reuters reports.
The U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) Inspector General’s office opened the probe at the request of a federal prosecutor, Reuters reported, citing sources. Investigators are reportedly looking at potential violations of the Animal Welfare Act.
Neuralink, which launched in 2016, is developing a brain implant to help paralyzed people walk again. Musk this month announced the company could place the implant device in a human brain for a clinical trial in about six months.
Reuters reported Monday that records it reviewed and interviews with employees detailed a number of botched animal tests to accelerate development. The tests have meant more and more animals are being killed.
Since 2018, the company has killed about 1,500 animals, including sheep, pigs and monkeys, the outlet reported, which is not a violation of the law in itself.
But employees say the number of deaths is more than it should be, largely because of increased pressure from Musk to speed up development, according to the report.
In a February email to staff reviewed by the outlet, Musk wrote: “In general, we are simply not moving fast enough. It is driving me nuts!”
The Hill has reached out to Neuralink for comment. The USDA Inspector General’s office declined to comment.
Concerns about Neuralink’s animal testing have been raised before.
Earlier this year, the Physicians Committee for Responsible Medicine, representing 17,000 doctors, filed a complaint with the USDA, alleging researchers at the University of California, Davis conducted harmful research on monkeys in a program funded by Neuralink.
The USDA Inspector General has inquired about those complaints, according to Reuters.
At least five employees have reportedly raised internal complaints about Neuralink’s animal testing but have been told alternative solutions to scale down testing would not work because of Musk’s push for accelerated development.