It turns out the “Greatest Show on Earth” is no longer great enough to keep its doors open. Ringling Bros. and Barnum & Bailey Circus just announced plans to end their 146-year run of performances in May. The announcement is a monumental win for animal rights groups who have spent years protesting the treatment of the wild animals in the company’s care.
In 2015, Ringling Bros. and Barnum & Bailey announced plans to phase out elephants from its performances, stating they would be completely removed from the shows by the year 2018. A statement from Ringling Bros. and Barnum & Bailey says they could not have anticipated the sharp decrease in ticket sales that would follow, which ultimately led to their decision to end the circus shows for good.
The elephants phased out of the shows were taken to the company’s Center for Elephant Conservation, a 200-acre facility in Florida. The Associated Press reports that the other exotic animals once exploited for entertainment purposes will meet similar fates will be sent to “suitable homes.” The Feld family, which bought Ringling in 1967, will still operate the conservation center.
The company’s announcement mentions plans to continue other entertainment shows, including Disney on Ice and Monster Jam, and it notes the importance of supporting their performers as they transition into new roles. Their statement does not offer reflection on why their ticket sales plummeted – the influence of animal rights groups on raising awareness of the conditions in which the animals were kept and trained, or consideration for the welfare of the animals currently in their captivity.