After 146 years, the Ringling Bros. and Barnum & Bailey circus is coming to an end.
The Associated Press reports the “The Greatest Show on Earth” will see its last curtain call this May, with company executives citing dwindling attendance numbers, high operating costs, and years of public protest and battles with animal rights groups as some key reasons for its closure.
The circus will perform 30 more shows throughout the U.S. before its final act this spring.
Though it kicked off in the mid-1800s, the Ringling circus was purchased in 1967 by the Feld family.
Chairman and CEO of Feld Entertainment, Kenneth Feld, told AP that the public’s tastes have changed over the years. What once drew huge crowds in, is now a source of contention for some – the animal acts.
“The competitor in many ways is time,” he said.
Animal rights group PETA has been a vocal opponent of the circus for the past 36 years.
“PETA 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,” sayid Ingrid Newkirk, president of People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals, in a statement.
But it wasn’t just those who disagreed with using animals for entertainment who hindered ticket sales. Juliette Feld told AP that fans who hoped to see the elephant act, for example, were discouraged from seeing the circus after an animal rights settlement had them removed from the show.
“We know now that one of the major reasons people came to Ringling Bros. was getting to see elephants,” she said. “This was what audiences wanted to see and it definitely played a major role.”
The Feld family say they tried various tactics to attract the younger generation to the circus, but fell short in the end.