After 146 years, the big top of Ringling Bros. and Barnum & Bailey Circus is coming down.
Over the weekend, circus owner Feld Entertainment made the announcement the circus will end in May, citing declining ticket sales after removing elephants from the line up coupled with high production costs.
According to Stephen Payne, vice president of corporate communication for Feld told AgriTalk host Mike Adams the circus was determined not to be a sustainable business model so the decision was made to close it.
Payne said the privately-owned company had a feeling ticket sales would slump after taking the elephants out of the show, but the decline was greater than anticipated.
Over the last 10 years, the circus experienced a decline in attendance. Payne said this comes from a “hyper competitive environment” and changing interests. To combat the decline, the company tried “everything:” different changes to the show, different marketing tactics, and different ticket strategies.
The decision to remove the elephants sped up the circus’s demise. Payne said animal rights groups spouted “absurd claims” of animal abuse. The circus was straightforward about the care the animals received, what it did with the animals, but Payne said in the end, it wasn’t enough.
“The men and women who care for our animals do that on a 24-hour basis, seven days a week,” said Payne. “The needs of the animals come first. [Animal abuse claims are] a disservice and insulting for the people who actually care for the animals.”
Feld made the announcement to close the circus with enough time to give people one last chance to experience Ringling Bros. Payne said the announcement was made well-enough in advance to help the more than 400-person cast and crew transition, some are multi-generational families.
As for the animals, Payne says the company is working with various zoos and sanctuaries to provide homes and care.
On May 21, the vibrancy of greatest show on earth will fade into memory.
Listen to Payne discuss the animals and what’s next for the cast and crew on AgriTalk above.