(CIRCUSES/ANIMAL NEWS) In a major victory for circus animals everywhere, Ringling Bros. and Barnum & Bailey Circus announced its “Greatest Show on Earth” will be closing for good in May.

Kenneth Feld, chairman and CEO of Feld Entertainment, which owns the circus, attributes to the closure to declining attendance, high operating costs, shifting public tastes, and ongoing pressure from animal rights groups.

“We looked at the performance in 2016 and advance tickets sales in 2017, and we decided it was not a viable business model,” Feld said.

Ringling Bros. has 30 shows remaining until it closes forever.

Even though an estimated 10 million people attend Ringling shows every year, there’s been a very apparent “mood shift” among audiences.

Thanks to decades of animal rights groups suing, protesting, and exposing Ringling Bros. and the suffering of circus animals behind the scenes, public sentiment has turned away from abusing animals for our entertainment.

“It’s just not acceptable any longer to cart wild animals from city to city and have them perform silly yet coercive stunts,” the Humane Society’s President and CEO Wayne Pacelle said.

“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,” Pacelle said.

Ringling Bros. circus elephants are seen strolling along 11th Street in Downtown Los Angeles on their way to Staples Center. Photo Credit: Los Angeles Times

Feld also claims ticket sales declined more drastically than expected after the company removed elephants from its shows last year.

Los Angeles City Council banned the use of bullhooks in circuses on Wednesday.
Bullhooks are often used as weapons to tear the skin of elephants, and beat them bloody. Photo Credit: PETA

For over 100 years, the elephants and their unnatural dance routines were the focal point of the circus. However, increased awareness about bullhooks–the firepoker-like devices used to manipulate and torture elephants–and the growing prevalance of bullhook bans in major municipalities led Ringling to phase out the animals two years sooner than initially intended.

In May 2016, the company sent the animals to ‘retire’ at the Center for Elephant Conservation in Central Florida.

While an increasing number of people agree forcing animals to perform is cruel and unnecessary, it’s clear that public opinion has finally put an end to the suffering–demonstrating how circuses are not celebrations of amazing wild animals, but rather an unjustifiable cruelty.

Gone are the days of animals living in cramped, barren conditions for long periods of time, where they are forced to perform tricks through physical violence, fear, and intimidation.

But now it’s time for all circuses to follow suit and end their wild animal acts.

“Ringling’s action is a signal to every other animal-based circus that their business model must change,” added Pacelle.

Kids and other members of the public know too much about the backstory of misery, toil and coercive training to keep patronizing these businesses.”

Before its final bow, the Ringling Bros. circus will perform an additional 30 shows across the U.S. through May. The last two shows will be on May 7 in Providence, Rhode Island, and May 21 at the Nassau Veterans Memorial Coliseum in Uniondale, New York.

Feld Entertainment claims their existing lions, tigers, camels, donkeys, alpacas, kangaroos, and llamas will all go to suitable homes, and they will continue operating the Center for Elephant Conservation.

— Alisa Manzelli, exclusive to Global Animal