Embracing Christ and His compassion is central to our spirituality, indeed. Being more in touch with the suffering around us should inspire us to at the very least decline to be a part of it. It doesn't matter to me if Jesus or Paul or anyone was vegetarian, they certainly taught compassion and respect for life. Jesus taught that God noticed when the sparrow falls. He cares about His created beings, that ought to be enough there to convince us that they should matter to us as well.
I saw a great quote that I wanted to share: Until one has loved an animal, a part of one's soul remains unawakened. How true!
Its really a disgrace when "Christians" have disdain for animals and those who work to help end their suffering. They are the truly unenlightened.