Proverbs 12:10 says:
10 A righteous man has regard for the life of his beast,
But the compassion of the wicked is cruel.
A righteous person is one who believes in God and loves Him completely, which includes the whole of His creation.
In such a state of Godly righteousness, people come to truly know the animals in their care, which includes their feelings, emotions, and desires. They would want to give the animals their heart’s desire, just as they want God to provide for themselves.
This is what it means to regard the lives of all animals, for all true sympathy and care must grow out of knowledge, and it is a requirement of all people toward animals.
This is the lesson that God taught Jonah, and us, when He explained about His mercy toward the repentant city of Nineveh in verse 4:11.
11 "And should I not have compassion on Nineveh, the great city in which there are more than 120,000 persons who do not know the difference between their right and left hand, as well as many animals?"
True regard and true compassion have no limits when it comes to the well being of our fellow human beings or the animals who occupy this planet with us.
In Exodus 20:10 we are told to treat animals the same as we treat ourselves on the sabbath.
10 but the seventh day is a sabbath of the LORD your God; in it you shall not do any work, you or your son or your daughter, your male or your female servant or your cattle or your sojourner who stays with you.
This law is referring only to one aspect of the way we are to regard the lives of animals and care for them. It’s a baseline law upon which our concern and compassion is to grow.
Exodus 23:4-5 further defines which animals we are to have regard for:
4 "If you meet your enemy's ox or his donkey wandering away, you shall surely return it to him.
5 If you see the donkey of one who hates you lying helpless under its load, you shall refrain from leaving it to him, you shall surely release it with him.
If we are to have regard for our enemies’ animals, then there is no animal that is undeserving of our ultimate regard and compassion.
If this is what God wants from every righteous person, what does He say about people who don’t have and exhibit this unconditional love and compassion toward animals?
It’s as we are told in the second part of Proverbs 12:10: But the compassion of the wicked is cruel.
This means that in the eyes of God, anyone who lacks compassion or empathy for the well being of all animals is considered to be wicked.
Cruelty toward animals is wicked; the cruelty exhibited toward all animals on factory farms and slaughterhouses, laboratories, and many other places is wicked in God’s eyes. See http://www.all-creatures.org/anex/
In other words, wicked people do not have any tender mercies toward the suffering of animals.
One commentator in The Pulpit Commentary, published by Wm. B. Eerdmans in1980, refers to Proverbs 12:10 as “Justice to animals” and goes on to say, “Animals have rights which may be outraged by injustice. We hear more about kindness to animals than of justice towards them. It seems to be assumed that they have no rights, and that all our consideration for them must spring from pure generosity, perhaps from a superabundant condescension. These assumptions are based on an inordinate regard for our supremacy. Man may consider himself as the lord of creation,” which he is not; God is. For humans to think in this exulted way is arrogance.
This commentator goes on to say, “All orders of creation are made by one God, and all share in many common wants and feelings… It is not for us to be above giving their due to fellow-creatures for whom God cares so tenderly. These animals not only make mute appeals to our compassion; they cannot be ill treated without injustice.”
In summery, we cannot use and exploit animals for our food, clothing, research, or entertainment without being unjust and cruel toward them; and all who do so are wicked.