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Non-killing days

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While the early Buddhists considered killing for any reason to be wrong they also recognized that many people did not agree with them, that some people might want to kill a chicken to have for lunch and that other people enjoyed hunting. Not wanting to impose their values on others while at the same time hoping to create a more humane society, the custom developed in India to have what were called non-killing days (māghāta, Vin.I,217) when no criminals were executed, no animals were slaughtered and no hunting was allowed. Such days were usually announced by the beat of a drum (Ja.IV,115).

In 243 BCE King Ashoka issued an edict banning the killing, castrating or branding of animals on certain days of every month. The custom of observing non-killing days survived even up to the Muslim period. In his Tuzuk-i-Jahangiri the emperor Jahangir (reigned 1605-27) wrote; 'I ordered that each year from the 18th of Rabiu-l-awal which is my birthday, for the number of days corresponding to the years of my life, that people should not slaughter animals for food.'

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