The Ringling Bros. Circus is shutting down after more than 100 years in business.


The news was announced by Feld Entertainment, which has owned this circus for the past 50 years. “I have made the difficult business decision that Ringling Bros. and Barnum & Bailey will hold its final performances in May of this year,” said CEO Kenneth Feld. The decision comes after increased costs and decreased ticket sales “made the circus an unsustainable business.”

For many years, the elephants have been the focal point of the show with their dance routines. Mounting criticism from animal rights groups as well as more public knowledge about the treatment and lifestyle of circus animals has caused an uproar and fewer patrons to the circus.

PETA and the Humane Society of the United States are among those who have petitioned for years to end the maltreatment of the circus animals. The Ringling Bros. did in fact open an elephant conservation center in 1995 to study and care for Asian elephants, but that was clearly not enough.

“It’s just not acceptable any longer to cart wild animals from city to city and have them perform silly yet coercive stunts,” said Human Society President and CEO Wayne Pacelle. “I know this is bittersweet for the Feld family, but I applaud their decision to move away from an institution grounded on inherently inhumane wild animal acts.”

While Feld Entertainment did not admit to wrongdoing, they paid a fine of $270,000 in 2011 to the Dept. of Agriculture for alleged violations of the Animal Welfare Act. They did promise to implement new training for all animal handlers.

The circus was founded in 1884 by five of the seven Ringling brothers, and the family ran the business until 1967 when it was sold to Feld Entertainment. The circus will put on 30 more shows before it officially closes in May, with its last show on May 21 in Uniondale, New York.

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