Elon: Animal Research Industry Exemplar

The Rise for Animals Team, September 14, 2023

Elon Musk’s Neuralink, a brain implant startup, has been all over the news for many months, and its press has been anything but positive. From incontrovertible evidence of animal cruelty and researcher incompetence to ugly employee whistleblower accounts and a federal investigation, Neuralink has faced a media firestorm . . . which should make it much less surprising that Elon Musk has now taken another page out of the animal research playbook: outright lying.

A screenshot of a tweet by Elon Musk says: "@elonmusk on X: No monkey has died as a result of a Neuralink implant. First our early implants, to minimize risk to healthy monkeys, we chose terminal moneys (close to death already), 6:57 AM · Sep 10, 2023"
In a tweet on September 10, 2023, Musk denied monkey deaths resulting from Neuralink brain implants.

Musk is claiming “No monkey has died as a result of a Neuralink [brain] implant.” . . . except they have died. 

Not only has the Physicians’ Committee for Responsible Medicine (“PCRM”) uncovered evidence that at least 15 nonhuman primates died during (and as a result of) Neuralink’s brain-chip experiments, but Neuralink itself previously admitted to “euthanizing” (read: killing) at least eight nonhuman primates during the same experiments: two at “‘planned end dates’” and six “as a result of surgical complications, device failures, or device-associated infections”. 

Neuralink’s total body count is much higher: Neuralink has killed at least 1,500 animals since 2018, including, in addition to nonhuman primates, sheep, pigs, rats, and mice – but this number is just a “rough estimate”, because Neuralink “does not keep precise records on the number of animals tested and killed”. 

Musk is claiming that Neuralink’s experiments were performed only on “terminal monkeys” who were “close to death already” . . . except they were not. 

The use of terminally ill nonhuman primates would not merely fly in the face of traditional animal research practices (which begin with purportedly “healthy” animals to avoid confounding factors), but available evidence also roundly refutes this assertion. Neuralink records obtained by PCRM do not document that Neuralink’s nonhuman primates were ill (much less terminally ill) prior to Neuralink’s experiments – rather, they affirm that Neuralink brought the primates “close to death”, as Musk would say, by cutting into their skulls, forcing metal devices into their brains, and using inappropriate glue to hold these devices in place.

Musk and Neuralink have become poster children for an industry that works hard to obfuscate its moral turpitude.

Through his lies, Musk is clearly attempting to downplay and distract from the unjustifiable and unethical harm his company caused, a common tactic among animal researchers. Musk’s patently false, composite suggestion that Neuralink did not kill any primates because the primates they used were terminally ill is a total red herring: terminally ill primates deserve no less consideration than healthy primates, can suffer just as much as healthy primates, and can be killed just like healthy primates.

Experiments just like those at Neuralink – and their accompanying pain, suffering, and death – are taking place at thousands of laboratories all around the country, which is to say that Neuralink is but one, highly publicized example of an industry built on cruelty, oppression, and deceit. (Indeed, Neuralink employees have alleged that “Neuralink treats animals quite well compared to other research facilities” . . .) 

The animal research industry, including Musk and Neuralink, will continue to exploit, torture, and kill sentient beings – with impunity – until we join together and demand that they stop.

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