Thanks for your insights, Megan.
Clearly PETA has completely missed the boat on your animals. They are US born and are raised as pets. Pets often want to please owners and if doing a trick like standing on a box makes the owner happy, they are glad to do it.
They're domesticated for sure, but not sure I'd go so far as to call them "pets". I mean, pet cats will rarely do tricks for ANYTHING, much less your pleasure!
Elephants and tigers both like human affection, but they all have different personalities so there has to be something in it for them, too. Big cats do tricks because they know that they will be rewarded for it. Whether that reward comes in the form of food, affection, play, toys...they know there's something in it for them.
If it's something they don't want to do, they simply won't do it, no matter what bribery is offered. I know an elephant named Siam whose handler, Addy, tried to teach her to paint. She put little blobs of non-toxic paint on a canvas and also placed pieces of fruit on the canvas for Siam to eat. Siam touched the paint, and didn't like it (the smell or the texture probably), so she just ate the fruit and didn't paint. Addy tried several times to get Siam to paint in this way, trying different kinds of food and different ways of getting her to touch the paint. But after a few tries Siam wouldn't even eat the fruit, and started showing that she was annoyed/bored. So that was that. You're not going to force a 4-ton, intelligent animal to do anything that it doesn't want to do.
Other elephants got the same "training" and enjoyed painting. Those were the elephants who did it in the show. Siam just preferred other things. And that was fine.
Same with tigers. There have been shows where I have stood there vamping for minutes and minutes in front of an impatient audience of thousands of people while Taba tries to get one tiger who is not in the mood to do something. It could be something as simple as sitting instead of standing. And if the tiger doesn't want to do it, he is not hit, or whipped, or punished, or any of that. Taba tries for a certain amount of time, and if the answer from the tiger is "no", then the answer is no, and the act moves on without an issue. The tiger won't be rewarded of course, but otherwise, no harm done.
I have also seen animals really enjoying learning new tricks. People think that the animals get all of their training before going on the road, and that is not true. I got to watch an elephant named Mable learn LOTS of tricks. She was very curious and bright, and needed stimulation. So her handlers taught her something new any time she got bored, and made puzzle toys for her (these are called "enrichment items"). Some of the tricks she learned while I was there included turning the rope for jump rope, dunking a basketball, painting, bowling, and twirling hula hoops on her trunk (she started off with one and could do like fifteen by the time she retired). And she enjoyed it. You could see it, every day. "What are we going to learn next?" "What is my treat for doing this?" It was clear that she was eager for it.
Do these animals deserve to live in their natural habitat? Yes. I 100% think that they do. But you can't put the cart before the horse. You can't demand that all animals be freed from human care without giving them a place where they can survive outside of human care.