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Identifying negative sentiment polarity in the Judas technique

October 7, 2021

In the context of conservation science and management, the Judas technique refers to outfitting an animal (a Judas animal) with a radio transmitter or other identifier so that its movements can be tracked to locate conspecifics. Although this term is commonly used, some consider it offensive due to historical associations of the word Judas with anti-Semitic sentiments. Thus, the term has a negative sentiment polarity (i.e., the assertion that words can have positive, negative, or neutral connotations). We investigated the etymology of the Judas term in peer-reviewed scientific literature to outline its contextual introduction and use. Prior to the term being co-opted by conservation scientists Judas [animal] was a common term in the livestock industry to describe animals used to lead herds to slaughter. Subsequently, the term has been published and promulgated through conservation-related research and the literature. Due to a negative sentiment polarity linked to this term, especially among members of the public, alternative nomenclature may be preferred to increase objective and dispassionate scientific communication.