The ‘Greatest Show on Earth’ Comes to a Close

Ringling Bros. and Barnum & Bailey Circus performances are coming to an end following controversies and low ticket sales.

The Ringling Bros. and Barnum & Bailey Circus will hold their final performances in May of this year. While circus-goers mourn the loss of the “Greatest Show on Earth,” animal rights activists rejoice after achieving their goal following years of protest.

The animals of the Ringling Bros. Circus, specifically the elephants, have been in the public eye due to their rumored abuse and mistreatment. Various animal protection groups, including PETA (People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals), led the protests against the circus with petitions and articles.

One organization, the Humane Society of the United States, fought strongly against Ringling’s use of the elephants. In an article published by CNN News, the president of the society, Wayne Pacelle, stated that “it’s just not acceptable to cart wild animals from city to city and have them perform silly yet coercive stunts.”

In response to the complaints, Ringling agreed to remove the elephants from the show by 2018, according to an article from CBS News. This change occurred earlier than the projected date and the elephants were relocated to Ringling’s conservation center in Florida in May of 2016. As of January, the current owner, Feld Entertainment, made the decision to end the circus altogether.

In a recent letter released by Feld, CEO Kenneth Feld took an economic stance as opposed to an ethical viewpoint on the situation. Feld stated that the decision was made because of “high costs coupled with a decline in ticket sales, making the circus an unsustainable business for the company.”

Juliette Feld, the Chief Operating Officer of Feld Entertainment, further expressed that, “as a company, and as a family, [Feld Entertainment] will strive to support [their] circus performers and crew in making the transition to new opportunities.”

Animal rights activists believe the Ringling Bros. Circus will be the first of many animal exhibits to shut down. An article released by PETA stated that “society has changed, eyes have been opened, people know now who these animals are, and we know it is wrong to capture and exploit them.”

Although the end of the Ringling Bros. Circus marks the end of a longstanding tradition, it also intensifies the progressive animal rights movement: the effort to end animal exploitation and abuse.