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Anti-Cap vs Pro-Cap Understanding Cognitive Dissonance: Logic Behind Support of Marine Mammal Captivity

February 27, 2011

Not long ago, we lived an “average” life just like the majority of people, then a new road emerged in front of us. We were not always activists. This new road has changed our lives drastically. It started with a new knowledge regarding the damage we, as humans have created in our oceans, which quickly lead us to the captive industry of imprisoning marine mammals. We thought people needed to hear and see the evidence that these animals are suffering greatly in captivity and the world can make a positive change for these animals, ourselves and our oceans.

We set out on a journey to raise awareness and what we encountered when we began to raise this awareness was astounding!

Help P.O.C.'s

SeaWorld along with other parks have conditioned certain individuals into believing captivity is essential and despite the suffering, it must continue on to further understand, appreciate and continue a healthy relationship between humans and wildlife.  These individuals immediately starting attacking us and the evidence we were providing. These individuals referred to us as ANTI-CAPS, a term we had never even heard before. I remember when I first starting seeing the term used against us I had no idea what it meant or why these individuals were attacking us. I asked my partner if she knew what the term ANTI-CAP meant and she had no idea either. I soon starting noticing the term PRO-CAP and eventually I had to ask someone what these terms were referring to. I was told:

An ANTI-CAP is someone who does not support marine mammals in captivity. These individuals generally come from a state of love, understanding and being able to empathize with captive marine mammals or other animals. Their motivation generally comes from an emotional state of being. There is no sense of JOY brought to a Anti-Cap by viewing a marine mammal in captivity. PERIOD.

A PRO-CAP is someone who does support marine mammals in captivity. They focus on the aspect that they are already in captivity and by supporting captive breeding programs then no one is taking from the wild populations. They claim to be PRO-LIFE. Many times we find they live in a state of Cognitive Dissonance, a theory of human motivation that asserts that it is psychologically uncomfortable to hold contradictory cognitions. The theory is that dissonance, being unpleasant, motivates a person to change his cognition, attitude, or behavior. Pro-Caps enjoy viewing animals in captivity, it brings a sense of joy to them.  Pro-Caps take the stance marine mammals are in captivity, they are going to remain in captivity and we are PRO-LIFE, so we support all marine mammals.

Numerous Pro-caps we have encountered seem to be equivalent to a wild pack of dogs, they attack anyone or any public statement that speaks out about against marine mammals in captivity. They spend their time searching blogs and videos, leaving smear trails behind them. We have been referred to as “idiots”,  been told to “shut the f*#k up”, and even that we are stupid. They are harsh and aggressive.

We could not understand why this was happening to us. I mean, we were not hurting anyone, we were trying to help sustain our Earth for future generations. We were defending the truth that marine mammals are suffering in captivity, the proof is here for all to see.

I made a few connections with some of these PRO-CAPS as I wanted to understand why and how they could feel this way. I wanted to see them for who they were and not just the aggressive behaviors they were displaying towards us. What I found very interesting was that PRO-CAPS do have concerns also about captive marine mammals and even wild marine mammals. We had things in common, yet on the flip side there were also things that we did not have in common.

The Emotional Lives of Animals

PRO-CAPS publicly defend the captive industry by stating the marine mammals are not suffering because they do not feel emotions.

Here is an actual conversation from a PRO-CAP sent to me:

“Applying human trauma to orca trauma is honestly not relevant. Applying any human emotions, feelings, or ideals….(anthropomorphism)….is something I will not do. Its easy for people to anthropomorphisize a situation because it makes it easier for THEM to relate to the animal or thing they are involved with. In the world of science any debates or arguments that involve feelings or human situations applied to orcas would not be taken seriously, therefore I honestly cannot either. I sympathize with your emotions, but I cannot share them, my field requires my brain to think differently.”

Well with regards to this statement “In the world of science any debates or arguments that involve feelings or human situations applied to orcas would not be taken seriously, therefore I honestly cannot either

This is false information and it was trying to be fed to me as truth just as it is to so many other people. There is research regarding animal emotions in captive marine mammals and numerous other animals.

From psychology departments to scientists, there has been a whole side of research regarding animal emotions that is being ignored by these PRO-CAPS. 

Lolita and Hugo

 ”Behavioral and Respitory Sychronization Quatified in a Pair of Captive Killer Whales“  

Some scientists who study animal emotions work in the field of cognitive ethology. The fusion of cognitive science and classical ethology into cognitive ethology “emphasizes observing animals under more-or-less natural conditions, with the objective of understanding the evolution, adaptation (function), causation, and development of the species-specific behavioral repertoire.

Many cognitive ethologists were originally white lab coat wearing scientists who inflicted terrible pain upon the animals they studied, where after some time they realized animals do have emotions and it would be better to study the animals in their own natural setting versus the controlled lab studies.  Many documentaries we watch on the Animal Planet or science channels regarding wild marine mammals is information provided by cognitive ethologists.

Marc Bekoff, a leading scientist with more than 30 years of experience has written a few really good books on animal emotions. I could do a whole story on his books and findings alone. I highly suggest checking out some of his books as fascinating stories lie inside pages waiting to be heard.

Many PRO-CAPS have to see “scientific” proof to believe the negative sides to captivity exist, which out way the positive side for the marine animals in captivity. The type of “scientific” proof they want to see is from the white lab coat wearing scientist in a controlled environmental study. We all know what happens to animals in labs, I do not need to elaborate on this matter.

 What I would to point out is Why would any individual who claims to love animals and be pro-life wish to see marine mammals being tortured, extensively till death offers them a relief? It comes back to Cognitive dissonance.

For example, people who smoke know smoking is a bad habit. Some rationalize their behavior by looking on the bright side: They tell themselves that smoking helps keep the weight down and that there is a greater threat to health from being overweight than from smoking.

Dissonance and consonance are relations among cognitions that is, among opinions, beliefs, knowledge of the environment, and knowledge of one’s own actions and feelings. Two opinions, or beliefs, or items of knowledge are dissonant with each other if they do not fit together; that is, if they are inconsistent, or if, considering only the particular two items, one does not follow from the other (Festinger 1956: 25).

Basically it is easier for a PRO-CAP to feel better about one’s self through the justification that these marine mammals will always be in captivity so let us love them for who they are. A need is also being fulfilled for a PRO-CAP though, their own need. Many PRO-CAP’s are fanatics regarding captive cetaceans, they have extensive knowledge regarding captive orcas. Captive orcas are celebrities.

Also what we found was each PRO-CAP has their favorite captive orca. Another finding regarding PRO-CAPs was yes, they did know some information about wild orcas yet their real knowledge came down to captive orcas. PRO-CAPs also use the defense that SeaWorld does all kinds of conservation efforts, despite lack of conservation efforts for wild orcas. We, here at Withoutmethereisnou know just as much information regarding wild orcas as we do captive orcas. We also do not have a favorite orca….well I may be partial to Granny as she is living proof of the true life span of an orca.

Shouka Six Flags Discovery Kingdom Vallejo, Ca.

It is not just hardcore PRO-CAPs who live in a state of cognitive dissonance though. It is also the ticket holders going to these parks and supporting marine mammals being held in captivity. The mass state of cognitive dissonance can have impacting consequences for marine mammals in captivity and their trainers. In less than 3 months two separate orca trainers were killed by different orcas, both orcas belonging to SeaWorld Inc. Trainers have even been paralyzed from working with captive orcas.  Numerous attacks and warning have been shown by captive orcas towards their trainers. Orcas generally do not just suddenly attack, they provide warnings the majority of the time. 

From whale killer to killer whale 

Living in a state of cognitive dissonance is harming not only to the self, but also the animals involved. Every time a captive orca is forced into an attack or displaying numerous warnings, this creates stress through the changing of the chemicals being flushed through their entire system. Physical changes manifest during heightened times of stress. Stress leads to premature death. Captive orcas are dying prematurely. Captive orcas such as Tilikum are prime examples of how cognitive dissonance hurts animals.


Tilikum now has been forced to virtually live alone. He is locked in a small pool the majority of the day alone. He is no longer allowed to go do his big fluke splash he was so famous for in SeaWorld shows.  This is Tilikum’s life now without Dawn.



I, personally do not label myself as an ANTI-CAP. I am a person who is aware of  immoral acts occurring to captive marine mammals. I could have ignored what I was learning.  I could have stated what I was learning was not the truth despite the evidence or I could have done my best to help bring about changes. I made the choice to not avoid/ignore the issues at hand and instead I have played a very important role into setting the changes I wish to see in motion. I carry no guilt, no shame. I am not mean or oppressive to PRO-CA’s. I protest, sign petitions, write blogs and make videos all in the hope of raising awareness. I am just asking for more love/respect to be shown towards captive marine mammals and one another.

The one year anniversary of Dawn Brancheau’s death is another reminder of what irreversible damage can come from living in a certain chronic state of cognitive dissonance. It is apparent Dawn felt Tilikum deserved better, thus the reason for Dawn’s extra work with Tilikum in the recent years. Dawn never publicly spoke out about the concerns for Tilikum, she felt compelled to remain a trainer and continue working in an unsafe work environment. Dawn died doing what she wanted to do, despite known consequences from the past. The deaths of Dawn Brancheau, Alexis Martinez, Daniel Dukes and Keltie Lee Byrne raises concerns that it can continue to happen in the future.

Ask yourself if you are a PRO-CAP or an ANTI-CAP? Are you living in a state of cognitive dissonance that is directly or indirectly negatively affecting captive marine mammals?

21 Comments leave one →
  1. CarolineValentine permalink
    February 27, 2011 6:02 am

    what really kills me is that Tili probably KNEW that there would be consequences for his behavior regarding Dawn’s death. But, he did it anyways out of frustration and hurt. That really says something when he was willing to undergo even more isolation and an even lonelier life in order to prove his point. it was premeditated, and he is probably grieving over the loss of his life, and the loss of hers.
    ❤ great article. keep em coming!

    • A Winter permalink
      December 17, 2012 10:34 am

      So, you are saying that you “know” exactly what Tilly felt at the time, and know what he feels now? Wow you must be a whale psychic. Also, what “consequences” are you talking about? SW didn’t “punish” him for this, nor would they ever. And how could he know about any of the other consequences? I’m confused by your statement. And “premeditaded”?? C’mon really?

  2. holy henderson permalink
    December 3, 2011 9:01 am

    thank you.

  3. CarolineValentine permalink
    January 4, 2012 4:03 am

    i was about to comment and say i agreed with carolinecalentine’s comment above… until i realized I AM CAROLINEVALENTINE! haha

  4. August 12, 2012 4:53 pm

    “We could not understand why this was happening to us.”

    I think you are lying and being deceitful. Of course you do. Look at how you are representing ‘pro-caps’ here. Many implications that they are illogical and idiotic. Also, you fail to find the same qualities you accuse them of with your fellow ‘anti-caps’. It’s rather preposterous. I have experienced unmeasurable amounts of hatred and name-calling from anti-captivity associated individuals with whales and other animals. Someone just called me “evil” for expressing that these whales have the intelligence of about a 2 year old human. I believe that based on the evidence presented. I have NEVER seen any claims from people that these animals do ‘not have emotions’. I feel as though this is a self-inflicted fantasy on your part. Overwhelmingly, humans have a strong appreciation for the ’emotions’ of the more ‘intelligent’ mammals that are similar to them. Dogs do not pass the lauded ‘mirror test’ of self-awareness but are thought to be furred children by many. I am pro-cap in most instances and I do not deny ’emotions’ on animals but I do not think they possess them to the intensity and advanced level as a human. Is that so incredibly far-fetched? I do not subscribe to the idea that animals are entitled to human rights, even if they possess some of the primitive workings of a human’s brain. An animal rights point of view will challenge the possession of even dogs and cats, therefore, this may be why some people are giving you a hard time, or at least it should be. Furthermore, the claims of the intelligence and ‘human-ness’ of these whales is contradicted when I compare myself to a whale and realize that I would never possess the viable energy and eagerness to please that these toothed whales do if I were subjected to having my freedom removed. If I make THAT comparison, all of the sudden, no one wants to anthropomorphise them.

    • A Winter permalink
      December 17, 2012 10:46 am

      Thanks so much for saying this. Nice to see someone with a brain in their head on these threads. This article is so unbelievably bias, I can not get my head to stop spinning. I too have been horribly harassed by PETA and other antis when I worked for SW and otherwise. In my experience, it is antis who come to Zoos/Aquaria to protest and insult the way of life these keepers/trainers have undergone to care for the animals they love. Most people dedicate their whole lives to being with these animals and know everything there is to know about them and love them very much. AND, let me tell you, we do not get paid well, so you can outrule “greed” in your bag of reasons you think SW keeps these animals. I hear it all the time; that SW and Zoos breed for greed. No one working at SW makes much money, and the money that people provide with admission etc goes to 1. feeding the animals under SW’s care, 2. conservation to animals all over the world, 3. improving the parks (including the animal facilities and the way that we care for them), and 4. paying the employees (as I have said, not all that much!) People don’t get in the Zoo/Aquarium business to make money. When people support SW they are actually supporting animals everywhere. And the animals under SW care serve as ambassadors for wildlife in the ocean. If people actually went behind the scenes and saw what happens at these parks it would change their minds. I worked at SW San Antonio and never saw malpractice or any abuse or animals being “unhappy” because they were there. What I saw was wonderful, and the trainers understanding and awareness that since these animals are in our care, we must provide for them our utmost attention and give them the very best that we can. If it were not for cetaceans and other animals under human care, there would be very little support for their conservation, and whether you are anti or pro, we can all agree that seeing the animals up close and in person is the only way to go when you want people to really care. Some people just take it to the next level and start to lash out at one another… I have searched the internet for a non bias anit-cap vs pro-cap article, and still have not found many that support pro, and certainly none that are bias. I guess I will have to endure the mistreatment from some of the antis for as long as I live, so I’d better just get used to it 🙂 …. take care, -A

  5. Sarah permalink
    November 20, 2012 5:44 pm

    I don’t feel orca whales should be kept in captivity. I look at the whales in Free Willy, and I just fel they shouldn’t stay in captivity unless there is an oil spill or something drastic. The orca whale should stay in captivity at least until the oil spill is taken care of.

  6. A Winter permalink
    December 17, 2012 10:31 am

    I find it funny how this article makes all pros seem to be the aggressive ones in conversations when in my experience it has been the other way around. I have found that antis are the ones attacking pros with their opinions and with curse words all over the Internet and making people who care for these animals seem to actually be greedy and want them to suffer. I have been cursed out plenty of times for standing up for SeaWorld and simply explaining the purposes of Zoos and Aquaria such as them. I can only speak for SW because I have first hand experience working there. But, as I have said, the antis seem to be seeking out blogs and YouTube videos that they can start arguments and insult zookeepers and trainers with their ignorance. Most trainers/keepers do think of the animals’ emotional well being, and like all zoos (checked over and accredited by the AZA) SW has taken drastic measures to do their best to ensure that the animals in their care have the best possible life they can in the care of man. Yes, these animals do belong in the wild, however, the animals in our care would absolutely die if they were put into the ocean. Look at the keiko story. I myself was a little on the fence about re release in orcas until all of that happened. He did not thrive in the wild and actually died. Now I understand that he was not a healthy individual, but releasing these animals is just not an option. I’ve heard opinions about “sea pens” and such which do not solve the problem of the toxicity of the ocean water. We can all agree that the ocean needs our help, and despite what a lot of antis think, SW really does care about the state of our world and strives daily to educate and conserve our oceans. SW has rescued and rehabilitated THOUSANDS of animals, and when people come to support the parks, a part of their proceeds goes to a conservation fund (this is part of the agreement to get AZA certified every 3 years). Yes, the old school ways were horrible (as many of these photos you have provided show) but things are improving and will continue to do so. But, if people do not support the park, improvement for these animals and for animals SW is helping all over the globe will not happen. I am sorry of any of you have had angry or abrasive experiences with pros throughout the years, but I am sure they are just feeling somewhat insulted by someone questioning their way of life and whether or not they care for these animals they have devoted their lives to, that’s all. Best wishes, -A

    • You're Wrong permalink
      October 31, 2013 5:43 am

      Evidently we are going to question it. It is about time. This article is obviously biased, I mean, I’m one hundred percent sure SW wouldn’t bother to face the music.
      They care? Good one. Ignorance at its best. We need to question them. Who gives a rats ass if we are insulting them? Have we forgotten whom is truly suffering here? The conditions are piss poor for these animals. I surprised as to you guys wondering why the orcas sometimes act hostile. It only makes sense.
      Moronic ignoramus. We have to question otherwise this will continue to happen. Too bad you have your hands over your ears trying to block out all of the logic.

    • Ron Lopes permalink
      February 21, 2014 8:00 pm

      The only benefit of keeping whales in tanks and making them do stupid tricks is the benefit to Seaworld’s profit margin. Seaworld is a circus with silly tricks. It provides no educational value. Teaching children that orcas are to be made to give French kisses and do backflips is not educational. Take your kids whale watching if you want them to see real whales and their natural behavior. As far as any conservation goes there are REAL non profit organizations that run circles around SeaWorld’s PR driven program. They probably get more free advertising from their rescue program than any thing else. SeaWorld is a sham and way past it’s time.

  7. Amber permalink
    April 24, 2013 12:54 am

    I am a Pro-Cap, please don’t have any negative remarks to me. I have been called horrible and very nasty names, which I am the type of person to not criticize ANYONE. I believe there are dangers with captive and wild orcas. Almost all orcas in captivity are captive bred. They not be in their natural environment but they do receive great love and care. Now instead of doing waterworks they focus on the orcas and do natural behaviors.

    • Ron Lopes permalink
      February 21, 2014 7:59 pm

      I am not sure where you are getting your information from but it’s not true. They are still made to do unnatural tricks. The fact that these animals need care is the problem. In the wild they don’t need to be kept on constant antibiotics, ulcer meds and fed gelatin to stay hydrated because the frozen fish they are fed don’t provide enough fluid. They don’t need their teeth drilled out in the wild, they get enough exercise so that their fins don’t flop in the wild, they don’t get sunburnt in the wild because they can dive deep. In a tank they will never get to experience the rthymn, sound, smell of the ocean. But rather the sterileness of a tank.

  8. ASfv DKGVADNGV permalink
    June 11, 2013 1:11 am

    This article is so biased and one sided. The writer, writes as if pro caps are animals who have no empathy and do it solely for the entertainment of man. Right off the back, they bash pro cap and make anti cap look like the ideal situation to side with. Sacrifices must be made to for the benefit of all. Just as people act as guinea pigs to find cures of diseases etc. These animals bring great insight to people and in the research of marine wildlife that may one day benefit people and aquatic life. DO YOUR RESEARCH! I personally am anti cap btw.

    • Ron Lopes permalink
      February 21, 2014 7:54 pm

      “Sacrifice must be made for the benefit of all”, the only benefit of keeping whales in tanks and making them do stupid tricks is the benefit to Seaworld’s profit margin. Seaworld is a circus with silly tricks. It provides no educational value. Teaching children that orcas are to be made to give French kisses and do backflips is not educational. Take your kids whale watching if you want them to see real whales and their natural behavior. As far as any conservation goes there are REAL non profit organizations that run circles around SeaWorld’s PR driven program. They probably get more free advertising from their rescue program than any thing else. SeaWorld is a sham and way past it’s time.

  9. Ron Lopes permalink
    February 21, 2014 6:31 am

    Here is a video of 2 pro cap people harassing protesters at Seaworld San Diego. Not sure if he being paid by SeaWorld but there are pictures of the 2 of them at SeaWorld with badges around their necks. They are clearly trying to provoke these people. The lady is yelling at a teenage girl towards the end. Shameful.

  10. Ron Lopes permalink
    February 21, 2014 8:29 pm

    The only benefit of keeping whales in tanks and making them do stupid tricks is the benefit to Seaworld’s profit margin. Seaworld is a circus with silly tricks. It provides no educational value. Teaching children that orcas are to be made to give French kisses and do backflips is not educational. Take your kids whale watching if you want them to see real whales and their natural behavior. As far as any conservation goes there are REAL non profit organizations that run circles around SeaWorld’s PR driven program. They probably get more free advertising from their rescue program than any thing else. SeaWorld is cruel and way past it’s time. Denying these animals of their natural right to live in the ocean is inhumane. For them not to be able to feel the movement of the ocean, the smell and sounds is the ultimate crime against nature.

    • john deare permalink
      July 7, 2015 6:02 am

      Seaworld isn’t really supposed to be educational to visitors. It’s educational for the trainers who LOVE them. We learn about these animal’s behaviors and ways of life. Seaworld cares. Otherwise these trainers wouldn’t work there.

  11. J.C. permalink
    February 22, 2014 7:44 am

    These anti-Blackfish, pro Seaworld people are not upset because they feel threatened that someone is trying to take away their right to see Shamu do his silly tricks for them. What they really are against is any movement that challenges their long held beliefs and is in any way not conforming to the society they know and feel comfortable in. These are the types of people who will call someone a freak for dressing differently. They hate gays because they believe it to be unnatural to them even though it is natural to someone else. They fail to see the other point of view and are so rigid in their beliefs that any alternate view is consider a challenge to the very fabric of society. Whether it is a whale in a tank or not allowing gay marriage the most important thing is to keep society from changing. For over 50 decades SeaWorld has been a darling in the eyes of the world. Everybody loved SeaWorld. To not love SeaWorld was almost un American. Anybody who dislikes SeaWorld is just being purposely difficult, rebellious and is on the bandwagon of Kool-Aid drinkers. They have a genuine dislike of anything or anybody that challenges the status quo of the society they know. They are quick to condemn anyone who stands up for something that they consider sacred in their world. When Obama was elected President it went against the grain of what they perceived a president should look like, white. I’m not saying these people are racists but rather it went against what they felt a president should be. Never before in history has there been a president who was under so much criticism and dislike. While Bill Clinton was a Democrat he never had so much hatred thrown his way. He had a Congress that was willing to work with him and never had as difficult time as Obama has had. These people don’t compromise, reason or think outside of their own comfort zone. They hate dissent and they hate change. And most of all they hate free thinkers.

  12. Elsa permalink
    October 24, 2014 12:11 pm

    I’m doing a research project. Is there a way to cite this blog? So I can credit the writer.

  13. john deare permalink
    July 7, 2015 5:58 am

    This site is Stupid. Of course you need facts to support both claims. You would need scientific proof to believe there are positives wouldn’t you? And these animals aren’t being tortured. Where is that proof? This is pathetic because most of this is opinion. Not fact. And a lot of people are buying this shit. And “Granny is living proof of the true lifespan of an orca” um okay, there are many types of orcas, and they each have their own different lifespan. And Yes Dawn Died doing what She loved. But She went in there knowing the risks of what these animals are capable of. Basically, too much opinion and not enough facts.


  1. Are Captive Orca Whales Displaying Emotional Behaviors Despite Scientific Evidence? Should they remain in captivity? | Without Me There Is No You

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