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One of the world's oldest travelling circuses has closed after 146-years in operation due to high operating costs and the decline of ticket sales, making it an "unsustainable business for the company."
The news was announced through a press release from Feld Entertainment, which has owned the circus for the last 50 years.
"I have made the difficult business decision that Ringling Bros. and Barnum & Bailey will hold its final performances in May of this year," CEO Kenneth Feld said.
The Ringling Bros., will perform 30 shows across the United States before taking its final bow.
Dance routines involving elephants had previously featured prominently in the shows, but due to mounting criticism from animal rights groups, the Ringling Bros. brought the act to an end.
"The transition of the elephants off the road, we saw an even more dramatic drop" in ticket sales, Feld said.
The Feld family has owned Ringling Bros. circus since 1967 when Kenneth Feld's father, Irvin Feld, bought the circus for $8 million (£6.64m).
PETA, an animal rights group that has spent years petitioning against the treatment of circus animals, celebrated the news on social media, saying: "After 36 years of protests, Ringling Bros. circus will shut down in May. Thank you to all who spoke out!"
BREAKING: After 36 years of protests, #RinglingBros Circus will shut down in May. Thank you to all who spoke out! https://t.co/sE9GNgC8gx pic.twitter.com/iVOUu7L4Pr
- PETA (@peta) January 15, 2017
Alongside the circus, the Ringling Bros. has run an elephant conservation centre in Florida since 1995, focusing on the care and study of Asian elephants - an endangered species that it had used in its shows.
CNN reported that the Humane Society of the United States, a longtime critic of the show's animal welfare practices, said that the circus had made changes over the last two decades, but the changes hadn't happened quickly enough.
"It's just not acceptable any longer to cart wild animals from city to city and have them perform silly yet coercive stunts," the society's President and CEO Wayne Pacelle said in a statement Sunday. "I know this is bittersweet for the Feld family, but I applaud their decision to move away from an institution grounded on inherently inhumane wild animal acts."
The Law In Britain
The government in Westminster had announced a ban in 2012 on wild animals in circuses in England, with a licensing scheme in the interim.
However, attempts to pass the law have been blocked by a trio of Tory backbenchers - despite having the support of the government, Labour and 90 percent of the British public.
Legislation has been repeatedly blocked by circus-supporter Andrew Rosindell, along with Christopher Chope and Philip Davies, all Conservative MPs.
Andrew Rosindell, MP for Romford Essex, has repeatedly blocked changes that would make it illegal for wild animals to be used in circuses. PA Images
The bill was blocked for the 12th time in March 2015 after Rosindell lodged an objection - a move which, under parliamentary rules covering backbench bills, automatically ended any discussion of the matter.
However, the Wild Animals in Circuses (Prohibition) Bill 2016-17, a Private Members' Bill brought by Kevin Foster MP, is expected to have its second reading debate on Friday 24 February 2017, having been first presented to Parliament on Monday 4 July 2016.
If passed, the legislation will prohibit the use of wild animals in circuses and for connected purposes.
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