The last time I ate at a Bubba Gump restaurant was two years ago in San Francisco. It was only about five months before I discovered the trip to Costa Rica that I am now planning. I didn’t stop eating there because I don’t love shrimp or because I had bad service or even because the food was bad. In fact, it was only because of a short sentence at the bottom of my bill.

See, on the bottom of each receipt at Bubba Gump there is a small message that says, “Please tell your server if you would like to have $1 added to your bill for sea turtle conservation.” (or something to that effect). I told my server I wanted to donate $1, although I couldn’t figure out why on earth this restaurant was so concerned with sea turtle conservation. The waitress responded that she had no idea what I was talking about. Not only that, but nobody working could tell her how to take my $1 donation.

Thus my search for the answer, which soon became an unfortunate discovery – one of the main reasons sea turtles are an endangered species is that they are killed in shrimping nets. Bubba Gump supposedly gives money to save the sea turtles so they can have a clear conscience for unsafe shrimping practices. They put a little message at the bottom of their reciepts so people will say, “Aw, they want to save the sea turtles. How adorable!” When really they’re doing the exact opposite (at least in my mind).

As further proof, I wrote them when I was still hoping for corporate donations for my Costa Rica trip. Their response was a resounding “No.” I was told they already give money to save the sea turtles so they don’t see any reason to donate in other ways. This would have been completely understandable if I hadn’t already been to one of their restaurants where not a single person on staff could tell me how I could contribute. After all, I wrote to more than fifty businesses asking for donations and didn’t receive a penny from one of them, but I don’t hold anything against the rest of the businesses.

Maybe Bubba Gump really is an angel corporation trying to help stop poor shrimping practices. Maybe they really want to help with conservation. Maybe I’m completely off base. The only proof I have is the experience I had at their restaurant and a very short, curt conversation with a store manager. Who am I anyway? Just another consumer – but one who won’t be eating there anytime soon.

Side note: I stopped eating shrimp for more than a year after my discovery (until I forgot about it). Now that I’ve remembered though, I plan to limit my intake again. I know this irks some of you veggies out there, and I don’t have an explanation for it. I don’t know why I am more compassionate about some animals (snails, butterflies, turtles) than I am about others (chickens). I suppose it’s a mix of social acceptance of the practice and laziness that I don’t become a vegetarian.

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