AP

Animal rights activists are applauding the move by Ringling Bros. to close its circus after putting pressure on the group for years.  The Humane Society of the United States describes itself as a bitter adversary" to the show for a long time.

"It's just not acceptable any longer to cart wild animals from city to city and have them perform silly yet coercive stunts," Wayne Pacelle, who heads the society, said in a statement. "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 circus has long been criticized by for it's treatment of elephants, tigers, lions, zebras and other animals. Last year, Ringling Bros. took elephants out of the circus and moved them to an animal reserve in Florida. According to the company, that move hastened the circus' ultimate decline.

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“Ringling Bros. ticket sales have been declining, but following the transition of the elephants off the road, we saw an even more dramatic drop,” Kenneth Feld explained in a statement. “This, coupled with high operating costs, made the circus an unsustainable business for the company.”

The controversial animal rights group, PETA, is also applauding the change, saying it's over for "the saddest show on earth."

"All other animal circuses, roadside zoos, and wild animal exhibitors, including marine amusement parks like SeaWorld and the Miami Seaquarium, must take note: 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," the group said in a statement.