Hurry, hurry, step right up to the greatest show on Earth. There will be juggling acts, acrobats and clowns, but the circus will no longer feature the century-old tradition of the famed elephant acts.

A major win for animal rights activists, Ringling Bros. and Barnum & Bailey Circus announced on Thursday that it will eliminate elephant acts by 2018.

The "unprecedented" decision to phase out the popular act comes after the growing concern for how the beloved animals are treated.

"This decision was not easy, but it is in the best interest of our company, our elephants and our customers," Kenneth Feld, CEO of Feld Entertainment said.

Not only has the circus received pressure from the public, but there are also some places that have passed "anti-elephants" laws that prohibit the act.

"This is the most significant change we have made since we founded the Ringling Bros. Center for Elephant Conservation in 1995," Feld said. "When we did so, we knew we would play a critical role in saving the endangered Asian elephant for future generations, given how few Asian elephants are left in the wild."

Feld Entertainment settled with the American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals for $270,000 in 2014 after a long battle regarding the alleged mistreatment of circus elephants which violated the Animal Welfare Act. The settlement was the largest penalty linked to the Animal Welfare Act.

It was reported that the circus elephants were "whipped with bullhooks, trapped in train cars filled with their own feces, and chained in place for a good part of their lives."

While this is a major victory for those who have voiced strong opinions regarding how circus animals are treated, Ringling Bros. will continue to feature tigers, horses, dogs and other animals under the big top. The circus just added an act that features camel stunts in its Circus Xtreme show.

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Photo: Nazim Uddin  | Flickr

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