Ringling Bros. and Barnum & Bailey circus holds last performance

UNIONDALE, N.Y. — The last performance of the Ringling Bros. and Barnum & Bailey circus happened Sunday.

Officials said more than a quarter of a billion people have seen the “Greatest Show on Earth.”

The circus had been in operation for more than 100 years.

Several animal rights groups repeatedly criticized, picketed and sued Ringling Bros. for its treatment of the animals.

The animal rights group PETA spent years petitioning against the treatment of circus animals.

The Humane Society of the United States, a longtime critic of the show’s animal welfare practices, acknowledged that Ringling Bros. has made changes over the past century and a half, but claims the changes didn’t happen quickly enough.

Because of the criticism from animal rights groups, Ringling Bros. phased out elephant acts entirely.

Off stage, Ringling Bros. runs an elephant conservation center that sits on 200 acres of rural land in Florida, between Tampa and Orlando.

Created in 1995 by Ringling, the facility focuses on the care and study of Asian elephants — an endangered species that it had used in its shows.