SPANISH National Police rescued some 20,000 live chicks abandoned at the Adolfo Suárez Madrid-Barajas airport, last weekend.
They had been crammed into tiny cardboard boxes in cold conditions for three days without food or drink.
Tragically, around 6,000 chicks had already died by the time of the discovery.
Authorities had been aware of the shipment, but rain damage meant the boxes could not be transported, leaving some 26,000 starving chicks abandoned at the cargo terminal.
The remaining 20,000 were in such a state, they were attempting to eat the remains of those that had already perished.
Agents reported a foul stench from the putrefaction of the dead chicks.
Two animal protection associations were asked to take charge of the 20,000 chicks that were found, but it is believed that only 3,000 chicks survived the ordeal, due to a mixture of starvation and ill health.
Police are continuing to investigate to see exactly who was involved in this potential crime of animal abuse.