"No living beings are to be slaughtered or offered in sacrifice" (The Fourteen Rock Edicts, 1) professes Asoka, as emperor of India who "became a Buddhist and a vegetarian and, in accordance with the doctrine of 'ahimsa' (nonviolence), suppressed the royal hunts and ordered the curtailment of the slaughter of animals throughout his empire" (Richard Ryder, Animal Revolution, "The Ancient World").
"Royal edicts, confirming the decisions of the Council were published throughout his empire, and some of them are still found engraved on columns and on rocks throughout the peninsula." (Howard Williams, Ethics of Diet, "Asoka"). Asoka "made provision for medical treatment…and had wells dug and trees planted for the benefit of humans and animals" (The Fourteen Rock Edicts, 2). His edicts promoted "kindness to living beings" (The Fourteen Rock Edicts, 11) and"not killing living beings"(Minor Rock Edicts, 2) and in stating that "animals were to be protected" (The Seven Pillar Edicts, 7) Ananda Guruge informs us in Emperor Asoka's Place in History, that Asoka provides us with perhaps "the earliest known list of protected species."
Buddhism was at once the most intensely missionary religion in the world, and the most tolerant. This character of a proselytising Faith, which wins its victories by peaceful means, so strongly impressed upon it by Asoka, has remained a prominent feature of Buddhism to the present day. (Sir W. W. Hunter, History of the Indian Peoples, qtd. inHoward Williams, Ethics of Diet [1883; 1896], "Asoka")