It took me a while to work out my opinion on this, because it's very tempting to resort to posting quotes and arguing about arguing (the worst thing that can happen to any thread - at least being locked is a dignified way to go).
So, I support eating meat because a) I hate green vegetables so going vegan would be tons of "oh boy, peppers stuffed with leaves!" and b) we have the privilege to do so. There *probably* weren't very many vegans 200 years ago because at that point, survival was more important than whining about how ethical your food is, and we didn't have the choice. Now civilization has reached a little plateau where we have the freedom to complain about how terrible factory farming is and never eat anything from one of the five dwarven food groups (Meat, Fish, Plant, Drink, Other) again. But what about improperly done plant farming, eh? If you let a sufficiently large pasture grow whatever and keep animals in it, then you won't have too many issues (overcrowding's where the problems happen). But the same thing is true with plants. If you grow too much corn in a tiny little field, then you have to truck in fertilizer and manually work out the nutrients in the soil because it just doesn't work out. And pesticides and tons of crap we put on our food crops (and more!) ends up in waterways, and you've got a pollution problem just like the pollution problem from overcrowded pastures. With plants. So then you move to organic, but then you're paying tons of money (you need someone tending those almost all the time - we used to have a farm share where you pay a few hundred dollars and help out in the fields for one day, and in return you get vegetables all summer) to cover the holes in your diet that you've created. So it's not just "I'd eat a cow if it meant not dying", it's "I'm not eating a cow right now and boy, am I paying for it!". You have to pay a lot of money, or you get to contribute to algal blooms, dying fish and mud flats that won't grow anything.
Where I live, you can get pretty good beef for cheap, and it's from well-raised cattle, so I go for it. Maybe you won't, if your area is different (transportation costs and pollution!). Maybe you will, when saving money becomes more important than a couple of your ethical standards. It's all different and I'm doing pretty well.
And I didn't even have to get philosophical!