THOUSANDS of chicks were found abandoned and EATING each other to survive at a Spanish airport.
Police say some 26,000 birds had been left for three days without food and water in "hypothermic" weather at Madrid airport.
They were crammed into tiny crates and were so hungry some resorted to nibbling on the remains of some of the birds who had already died.
It's estimated that 6,000 birds were dead by the time the grim discovery was made.
Thousands perished later – but around 3,000 survived and need to be adopted.
The shocking discovery was made at the Adolfo Suárez Madrid-Barajas airport, where overnight temperatures have hit 12C in recent days.
They were set to be sent to the African continent after going through a selection process and were going to be used as laying hens.
Police say around 26,000 chicks were taken to the airport in cardboard boxes, which were damaged during rain, making their “transportation to their destination” undoable, leaving them “abandoned in the loading area”.
An airport worker noticed towers of boxes containing the abandoned animals and contacted authorities who arrived to investigate on Sunday 4th October.
The officers contacted Local NGO Association for the Liberation and Well-Being of Animals (ALBA) President Carolina Corral for assistance with the unexpected challenge.
Ms Corral brought in other NGOs to help with the large-scale operation, but the animal rights activists found that half of the chicks had already died by the time they arrived at the scene.
Corral told Real Press they found the chicks “dying and eating each other”.
"People did not know what to do, the chicks were dying in our hands. We gave them water and they would start pecking at each other,” she said.
A police spokesperson added: "The animals had been crammed together for three days, without eating or drinking and in hypothermic conditions.
"Some 6,000 specimens had already died at the time they were located."
"At the time of the discovery, some 6,000 chicks had already died due to the lack of food during the days of abandonment, due to the cold and the deplorable conditions of overcrowding in which they were found," say the police.
"The remaining 20,000 were dying, trying to survive by eating the remains of animals that had already lost their lives.
"The putrefaction of the dead animals caused a strong oduor that further increased the poor conditions of those who still lived."
Police have managed to contact the company responsible for the shipment.
Two animal protection associations took charge of the 20,000 birds that were left alive, although later, due to the poor conditions they had suffered, the vast majority of them died, leaving only about 3,000 chickens alive.
At this time, police efforts are continuing to fully clarify the facts to resolve the responsibility of the people involved in a possible crime of animal abuse," said the police spokesman.
The animal association, ALBA expressed its shock and said the birds had been treated as "sheer commodities".
"The chicks that have managed to survive are being cared for by various protectors and individuals with all possible care.
"We DO believe that their lives have value and we are fighting for them to move forward," it tweeted.
The association is calling for new measures to be implemented at the airports to avoid similar incidents in the future.
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