Introduction/Humans and Animals

Hey everyone!

Just as a brief introduction, my name is Matthew Tsai, and I’m a first year Molecular, Cell, and Developmental Biology major. I grew up in Plano, Texas (near Dallas) before moving to San Diego about eight years ago. Cooking has been a longtime hobby of mine, and I’ve definitely been taking advantage of access to our home kitchen to test some new recipes during the quarantine! My grandparents actually used to own a restaurant, so food has always been important in our family. 

Although I’ve always known that my Chinese zodiac sign is the snake, I never really considered the meanings associated with it. As it turns out, I found many aspects of the snake to be quite applicable to myself. According to the Hox Zodiac, the snake’s direction is south, which is relevant to me because I’ve lived in Texas (southern United States) and San Diego (southern California), and coincidentally I’m also a south campus major here at UCLA! In the diet of the snake, I found several foods that I also include in my usual diet, including beans, kale, avocado, granola, cheese, yogurt, and dark chocolate. In terms of personal traits, people born in the year of the snake tend to be calm, able to improvise, and avoid small talk, all of which I find relatable to some degree.

I think it has also been especially intriguing to consider our relationship with animals in the context of the COVID pandemic. Many topics from our biweekly discussions, like human consumption of animals and even food as medicine, are not only incredibly interesting, but are also becoming increasingly relevant in our current situation. 

One overarching theme that has stood out to me is the powerful, yet oftentimes unnoticed impact of animals on society. One such example is the current pandemic and its suspected origin of wet markets and wild animal consumption, demonstrating the powerful impacts (in this case negative) shaped by the human-animal relationship. On the flip side, we also rely on animals in countless parts of our daily lives. As Dutch artist Christien Meindertsma highlights in her book Pig 05049 and her TED talk, pig parts are actually used in almost 200 non-pork products from additives in other foods, to bullets, to concrete. In this sense, pigs literally form the building blocks of our society. Beginning thousands of years ago, humans have domesticated animals to help with physical labor, and some animals have seemingly always lived alongside humans for companionship as pets.

Smithfield Foods and Pig-to-Human Organ Transplants - The Atlantic

Pig parts are found in a wide variety of household items.


Ultimately, the connection between humans and animals can be viewed as a duality. We constantly affect each other in both positive and negative ways as our relationship evolves over time. Frankly, it seems that nowadays, humans are the ones that need to be more mindful of our impact on animals. For instance, with the lack of human presence in these past few months, animals are thriving at Yosemite National Park, and the bear population has actually quadrupled. If anything, the current situation reminds us that we aren’t the only s fellow inhabitants of this planet, and that we are fully obligated to respect the animals that we share it with.

Coronavirus closure returns Yosemite to the animals: Photos - Los ...

Animals returning to Yosemite during human absence.


How Pig Parts Make the World Turn TED Talk:


Importance of Animals in Human Lives:

Bears Return to Yosemite:

Hox Zodiac: 

Hox Zodiac Topic: