The makers of Lipton tea were testing it on animals. And I don't mean sitting bunnies down with a nice warm mug and a scone and tracking whether they preferred English Breakfast over Earl Grey. No, what I mean is:
• cutting holes into rats' intestines and feeding them tea ingredients through tubes in their throats;
• infecting baby pigs with E. coli toxin and cutting their intestines apart while they were still alive;
• suffocating mice and breaking their necks; and
• cutting off rabbits' heads.
The goal of all this "science" was to study the health effects of tea. Safe to say tea's health effects on Lipton's lab animals were ultimately suboptimal. But the experimenters were more interested in the health effects of tea on humans, so why not study the health effects of tea on humans? It's not as though there was a safety concern—humans have been drinking tea for millennia and to date tea's documented kill rate is zero, so having some human volunteers drink tea for a while doesn't seem to pose any risks. I suspect that the only drawback of human testing was that it would take longer to get results. That doesn't justify drilling holes in live animals.
Lipton's manufacturer, Unilever, was under no legal obligation or requirement to conduct these tests.
I've been able to use the past tense to describe Unilever's vivisection because the company announced on January 31 that it was stopping the experiments. The announcement came hot on the heels of a campaign of phone-calling and letter-writing from individuals, coordinated by PETA. Unilever says that it will continue to test its products (most of which are not tea) where it is legally required to, but it will outsource the testing to a third party. I don't see how outsourcing helps the animals being experimented on, but I do see how it helps Unilever's PR department.