Curtain is coming down on US circus with epic 146-year run

Ringling Bros. and Barnum & Bailey Circus is folding up its big tent for good after 146 years in business • PETA urges other circuses to follow suit

15 January 2017, 9:41am
Kenneth Feld, chairman and CEO of Feld Entertainment, said a variety of factors doomed the circus — declining attendance, high operating costs and prolonged battles with animal rights groups
Kenneth Feld, chairman and CEO of Feld Entertainment, said a variety of factors doomed the circus — declining attendance, high operating costs and prolonged battles with animal rights groups
The Ringling Bros. circus is closing down after more than 100 years in operation, according to a press release from Feld Entertainment, which has owned the circus for the last 50 years. "The Greatest show on Earth" was the most celebrated circus in the United States

"I have made the difficult business decision that Ringling Bros. and Barnum & Bailey® will hold its final performances in May of this year," CEO Kenneth Feld said.

High operating costs and the decline of ticket sales "made the circus an unsustainable business for the company," Feld said, adding that after "the transition of the elephants off the road, we saw an even more dramatic drop" in ticket sales.

Before taking the final bow, the Ringling Bros. will perform 30 shows across the United States between now and May.

For years, the elephants have been in the spotlight and their dance routines featured prominently in the shows. But due to mounting criticism from animal rights groups, the Ringling Bros. phased out the elephant acts entirely.

Off stage, the Ringling Bros. run an elephant conservation center which sits on 200 acre of rural land in Florida, between Tampa and Orlando.

Created in 1995 by Ringling, the facility focuses on the care and study of Asian elephants -- an endangered species that it had used in its shows.

But several animal rights groups repeatedly criticized, picketed and sued Ringling Bros. for their treatment of the animals.

The animal rights group, PETA, spent years petitioning against the treatment of circus animals.