Rising prices are forcing people into poverty in Ireland. There are now 7,000 homeless in the country, and 2,500 of them are children. The Wild Deer Association of Ireland is helping by feeding them hot venison on the streets of Dublin, provided by Ireland’s deerstalkers and served by volunteers from the Lamh Failte charity.
Ger O Brien, chairman of the Wild Deer of Ireland Association, says hunters are keen to support people in need. He says: “You have to give back something when you have the opportunity. There’s people down on their luck. We have the venison, and instead of sending it to game dealers, we just prefer to give it away to whoever we can. They really love it. Some people are really badly in need and a warm meal makes all the difference. They get cold food here all the time and when we supply the cooked venison burgers they love it.”
Ireland has three main types of deer: red, fallow and sika. Hunters from the across the country donate their game to provide the meat for the burgers. The Wild Deer of Ireland Association supplies Premier Game in Tipperary.
Premier’s Paul Fletcher and son, Paul junior, create the hand-made burgers. Paul says: “We collect deer from the 26 counties of Ireland. We have vans on the road that call to the hunters and collect everything. We have documentation which will show from the hunter from the time that he shot it, date he shot it and where he shot it.
“So, we have full traceability on all animals. All the animals are tagged when they are shot by the hunter. We supply the hunter with the tags, therefore the death is recorded in all intake documents.
“We have our own recipe which will remain a secret because we are three generations now in this business.”
Paul junior is a partner in the business too. He says: “We are three generations in this business, and we have our own recipe which we let people try and everybody loves them.
“For many people, eating at the barbecue in Dublin the venison burgers will be the only hot food they eat today. For many people here the venison burgers may be the only hot food they eat today. For some it will be the only hot meal they eat all week.”
Members of the Wild Deer of Ireland Association also volunteer to serve people at the barbecue in the centre of Dublin on a Saturday night. Deerstalker Ambrose MacKay, who is on the committee of the Wild Deer of Ireland Association, says it’s good to help people. He says: “It’s always good to help the next person and give them a sense of hope that somebody is thinking of them. At the moment, with the Ukrainian situation, there is a lack of food available because a lot of donations are going abroad. So, we are going to be upping the food we supply.
“All we can do is our best for these very humble people. We feel it’s good to be involved with people and help them out where possible because God knows anyone is only two bad days from being in a similar situation.”
Ger says serving people at the barbecue is very rewarding. He says: “It means a lot and you see some very deserving cases here. You have people living in sheltered accommodation that have no way of coping food for themselves. When we can provide them with a cooked meal, you see the happy smiles on the kids’ faces. When you give them their burger it’s very enjoyable.”
Paul Fletcher and his son drive three hours from Tipperary to bring the fresh venison burgers to the city and then they cook them too. Paul says: “When you see these children here tonight, who might have eaten for a day or two and they’re watching you cooking the burgers and they’re nearly drooling looking at them, and when they say a thank you it’s from their eyes not their mouth. They are so delighted to see you.”
Hundreds of people queue every week to be fed at the charity barbecue and pick up food. Some of them are homeless and sleep on the streets. Others are living hostels with nowhere to cook.
Debbie Noone volunteers with the charity Lamh Failte. She says the name of the charity means welcoming hands in Irish. She says: “What we do is we come in here on Saturday night to help vulnerable people a well as the homeless. We will helping young children in hostels and people sleeping on the streets. The homeless don’t get a lot of meat so the burgers fill up their bellies.”
The charity say people across Ireland are struggling to put food on the table and as prices go up they are seeing things getting worse. Alan Finn, of Lamh Failte, says: “In Ireland today, there’s an awful lot of people struggling to keep food on the table. It’s very important for people to be fed. The burgers are 100% protein and there’s nothing added to it. The burgers give them a full bell for the evening. They leave here happy and full. They really appreciate that.”
Many of the volunteers supporting the barbecue have previously been homeless and are keen to help. One volunteer says: “When you’re homeless and you don’t have anything hot food is the only hope you’ve got. It’s important to survive and it gives you hope.”
Volunteers say they are seeing more homeless people needing help each week as there’s no socially affordable housing. They are also seeing ordinary people coming to get food too.
From deer in the fields of Ireland to venison burgers for homeless people on the city streets, hunters are happy that their sport is helping people eat and forget their troubles, even for a little while.
Meanwhile, in the UK more than eight million people are struggling to feed themselves. The Country Food Trust raises funds to provide food to feed people in need. The charity makes meals from pheasant and venison. It delivers pouches of food, such as a country casserole and country curry made with pheasant. It also makes country Bolognese with a venison ragu.
The charity has donated 2.5 million meals. The meals are delivered in packets that have a one-year shelf life; they come in individual 300g pouches or larger 2kg pouches for charities that store and cook them.
The charity also buys large quantities of frozen meat from game dealers and donates it to other charities which have the facilities to cook it. The Country Food Trust has helped more than 3,500 charities that support people in need.