It only took a century and a half, but the famed Ringling Bros. and Barnum & Bailey Circus is finally putting an end to their iconic show that’s been attracting crowds since the mid-1800s.
Animal rights activists have been fighting to stop the traveling circus for years — in 2014, the Humane Society, among other groups, fought Feld Entertainment, the Ringling Bros.’ parent company, for 14 years over allegations that the circus mistreated their elephants. In the end, the circus won and the Humane Society had to pay them $25.2 million in settlements. In 2015, the Ringling Bros. decided to stop using elephants in their shows anyway, and it didn’t take long for ticket sales to drop off.
Without the show’s main attraction, Kenneth Feld, CEO of Feld Entertainment, decided to make a decision that would finally put an end to the pain and suffering of the exotic animals that have been performing their entire lives: The circus still has 30 shows left, but May 7th will mark the last time they’re forced to do tricks they never wanted to do. Hopefully, they’ll receive the same treatment the retired elephants did: living out the rest of their lives in a reserve where they’re able to feel a sense of freedom for the first time. It doesn’t compare to being out in nature, but it’s better than traveling city to city in a cage.
Understandably, animal advocacy groups like People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals (PETA), who are completely against wild animals being used in circuses for entertainment, were thrilled about the news and didn’t hold back their feelings.
“After 36 years of PETA protests, which have awoken the world to the plight of animals in captivity, 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,” Ingrid Newkirk, president of PETA, wrote in a statement.
And just like that, we can all bid farewell to “the greatest show on earth.” It’s about time.