Factory farming is still much, much crueler to animals. By a lot. And if you want to bring up the environment, there is no comparison. Factory farming of cows is the number one cause of global warming. 15% of global warming is due to it, that's more than all the cars on earth.
And I still don't get that logic. Just because it's happening anyway, doesn't mean we have to participate. Sorry to keep referencing my previous post, but I only see how that works if people apply the same to other industries:
There was a point in time where slavery was thought to be inevitable and worldwide. Do you think the people had no karmic consequences if they bought slaves that were already captured, not by their request?
What about with the recent revealing of Seaworld's cruelty. If someone knows what they do to those whales, but still pays seaworld money to go watch them, is that okay because they have the assumption it won't ever change?
If someone explains that those are the same as eating meat, then I would understand. It's really only the separation, people saying one is okay karmically and not the other that I still don't really understand.
Owning a person is different than eating a the flesh of a dead animal.
One can eat meat without participating in industrial agriculture.
There are two issues in your post:
1. Ethics of eating meat
2. The karmic consequences of eating meat.
The Buddhist ethical positions have been laid out already. The majority of people who are opposing the issue of eating meat are not doing so on the basis of a strictly Buddhist position.
As for karma, karma requires intention, an object, the deed, and satisfaction that the deed was done.
No Buddhist who eats meat will satisfy the criteria for creating a perfect karma of killing. No Buddhist is happy that animals are killed for food. We all regret it.
Even if we refuse to buy meat, still animals will be killed for food. The production of organic food on a national ands global scale requires the animal husbandry industry, especially for poultry litter, feather meal, bone meal, blood meal and other such organic fertilizers.
But this issue goes way beyond what Buddhists may or may not do,
A friend of mine whose father runs the largest organic produce farm in Bakersville, CA., was heard to remark that there is not enough chicken shit to produce organic food on a national scale.
Frankly, the real problem is the majority of people who live in cities who do not participate in the production of their own food, people who have no idea how their food is grown, where, and so on.
Our nation throws away an astonishing amount of food everyday, to the tune of 40%-50% of all the food we produce.
IN 2011, 1.3 bilion tons of food was discarded. This represents a third of global food production. The amount of food wasted per US citizen is 240 lbs per year.
Rather than worrying about who is eating what, we ought to turn our attention to who is wasting what.
And lets not get started on FOG (fats, oils and greases) that pollute our waterways.