Ringling Bros. Circus To Close Forever In May

Image courtesy of JenCarole

You don’t have to stay home, but you can’t run away to the circus anymore: after 146 years, Ringling Bros. Circus says it’ll be taking down the Big Top forever this May.

“The Greatest Show on Earth” will be closing for good due to a variety of factors including declining attendance, high operating costs, changing public tastes, and clashes with animal rights groups, the owner of Ringling Bros. and Barnum & Bailey Circus told the Associated Press.

“There isn’t any one thing,” said Kenneth Feld, chairman and CEO of Feld Entertainment. “This has been a very difficult decision for me and for the entire family.”

Last year, Ringling Bros. said it would be moving up retirement plans for its elephants from 2018 to the spring 2016.

Now that the elephants are gone, attendance has dropped even more than it had in the face of video games, TV, and other newfangled entertainment competing for the hearts and imaginations of youngsters. Although many folks said they didn’t like seeing big animals performing for humans in a circus, others refused to show up without them.

“We know now that one of the major reasons people came to Ringling Bros. was getting to see elephants,” said Juliette Feld, Feld’s daughter and the company’s COO. She adds that the company stands by the decision to retire the elephants. “We know it was the right decision. This was what audiences wanted to see and it definitely played a major role.”

The rest of the animals in the circus — including lions, tigers, camels, donkeys, alpacas, kangaroos, and llamas — will go to suitable homes, and the company will continue to operate the Center for Elephant Conservation.

Wayne Pacelle, president and CEO of The Humane Society of the United States, said the show’s closing was “bittersweet” for the Felds, but added that he applauds “their decision to move away from an institution grounded on inherently inhumane wild animal acts.”

Other companies have been taking note of consumers shifting away from live animal entertainment, including TripAdvisor, which announced last fall that it would no longer sell tickets to hundreds of animal attractions.

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