ESV - 10 Whoever is righteous has regard for the life of his beast, but the mercy of the wicked is cruel.
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I would say that this passage was expressing the belief that a righteous person shows regard even for animals as a reflection of the fact that, although not human, they have also been created by God, and can possess attributes that even humans can admire and learn from (as expressed in multiple other locations in Proverbs, even with regard to organisms as seemingly small or insignificant as ants (Proverbs 30:24-31)). However, I would also say that the main "teaching point" of the verse cited in the question is to contrast the fact that the kindness of the righteous extends even to animals, while even seemingly merciful actions on the part of the wicked or unrighteous contain elements of cruelty, self-interest, or ulterior motives that betray the true nature of the person who performs them.
Great question, Samuel! The righteous are kind and generous (Pr 21:26) and show their kindness not only in the way they treat people (Pr 29:7) but also in the way they treat animals. “A righteous man regards the life of his animal, but the tender mercies of the wicked are cruel” (Pr 12:10 NKJV). [PDF] The Wiersbe Bible Commentary The righteous take care of animals, not just people. (NET note). A godly man would not put even an animal to needless pain. (Matthew Henry's Concise Commentary).
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