January 15, 2017 at 09:24 AM EST

The Greatest Show on Earth is coming to an end.

Feld Entertainment announced late Saturday that the 146-year-old Ringling Bros. and Barnum & Bailey circus will hold its final live shows ever in May.

“After much evaluation and deliberation, my family and I have made the difficult business decision that Ringling Bros. and Barnum & Bailey will hold its final performances in May of this year,” Kenneth Feld, chairman and CEO of Feld Entertainment, which owns the circus, said in a note on the Ringling Bros. website. “Ringling Bros. ticket sales have been declining, but following the transition of the elephants off the road, we saw an even more dramatic drop. This, coupled with high operating costs, made the circus an unsustainable business for the company.”

Last May, Feld Entertainment retired all performance elephants from its shows after years of protests from animal rights groups. At the time, PETA urged the circus to end all of its animal acts. (Back in 2011, the U.S. Department of Agriculture fined Feld Entertainment $270,000 for allegedly violating the Animal Welfare Act. The company admitted no wrongdoing as part of the settlement.)

In response to the news, PETA tweeted, “After 36 years of PETA protests, which showed the world the plight of animal captivity, PETA heralds the end of the saddest show on earth. PETA is asking all other animal circuses to follow suit, as this is a sign of changing times.”

In his statement, Feld said closing the circus was a “tough business decision to make” — one made “even more difficult because of the amazing fans that have become part of our extended circus family over the years, and we are extremely grateful to the millions of families who have made Ringling Bros. part of their lives for generations. We know Ringling Bros. isn’t only our family business, but also your family tradition.”

The final Ringling Bros. shows will take place at the Dunkin’ Donuts Center in Providence, Rhode Island, on May 7, and the Nassau Veterans Memorial Coliseum in Uniondale, New York, on May 21.

“Ringling Bros. and Barnum & Bailey has served as inspiration for all of the live entertainment produced at Feld Entertainment. We learned from the circus, and applied those learnings to our other productions. Without Ringling Bros., we wouldn’t have the vibrant live entertainment company that we have today,” Feld said. “Ringling Bros. will always be part of Feld Entertainment, and its spirit will live on in every production and project we do.”

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