Ringling Bros. Circus Folding Its Tent After Nearly 150 Years

(Reuters) -
Elephants perform during the Ringling Bros. and Barnum & Bailey circus’s “Circus Extreme” show at the Mohegan Sun Arena at Casey Plaza in Wilkes-Barre, Pennsylvania, April 30, 2016. (Reuters/Andrew Kelly/File photo)

The Ringling Bros. and Barnum & Bailey circus said on Saturday it will cease performances after 146 years in business, owing to what it said were declining tickets sales and high operating costs.

“After much evaluation and deliberation, my family and I have made the difficult business decision that Ringling Bros. and Barnum & Bailey will hold its final performances in May,” Kenneth Feld, chairman and CEO of Feld Entertainment, the Florida-based producer of Ringling Bros. and Barnum & Bailey, said on the circus’s website.

In May of last year, the circus retired its elephant act, years after a suit by activists. It admitted no wrongdoing, but agreed to a six-figure fine several years before ending the elephant performances.

In his statement, Feld noted that declining sales had fallen off even more dramatically following what he called “the transition of the elephants off the road.”

Animal rights group PETA said it “heralds the end of what has been the saddest show on earth for wild animals, and asks all other animal circuses to follow suit, as this is a sign of changing times.”

PETA President Ingrid Newkirk also said in its statement that 36 years of PETA protests had “awoken the world to the plight of animals in captivity.”

After Feld Entertainment sued, claiming malicious prosecution, more than a dozen animal welfare groups agreed in 2012 and 2014 to pay settlements totaling about $25 million to end 14 years of litigation.

The circus will end its long run with performances in Providence, R.I., on May 7, 2017, and in Uniondale, N.Y., on May 21. Other Feld productions will continue, and the company said it will continue to develop new shows.

Employees were told of the decision to close down following performances on Saturday in Florida.