Sri Lanka's government announced a ban on the open display of meat in markets to coincide with the 2,550th anniversary of Buddha's death.

"We have decided to stop the selling of animal flesh in stalls openly displaying it to the public," government spokesman Anura Priyadarshana Yapa said on Thursday.

Buddhism, which teaches that animals should not be killed, is followed by many of Sri Lanka's majority ethnic Sinhalese, who comprise 14 million of country's 19 million people.

Yapa said markets would still be able to sell meat, and the ban on its display would mainly affect shops in urban areas and along the country's main roads.

"Selling of openly displayed animal flesh has become a common practice in meat stalls in Sri Lanka and this practice should be changed from now onwards," Yapa said.

This year, Buddha's death is commemorated on May 12.