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