Before Night Falls, Julian Schnabel's acclaimed biopic of Cuban writer Reinaldo Arenas, has fallen foul of UK censor, the British Board of Film Classification (BBFC).

Before agreeing to certify the film, the BBFC demanded a scene involving the capture of a bird in prison be cut under the Cinematograph Films (Animals) Act of 1937. 'The bird seems to have been lassoed round the neck with a rope tied to the end of a stick,' said a BBFC statement. 'As it flaps, appearing to fight frantically for escape, it is pulled through a hole in the roof of the cellblock. The bird is evidently distressed.'

The Act makes it illegal to show 'any scene... organised or directed in such a way as to involve the cruel infliction of pain and terror on any animal or the cruel goading to terror of any animal to fury'. In a statement, the BBFC said that assurances from the bird's handler about the nature of the scene were 'not consistent with what appears on screen'.

The scene has now been cut and the BBFC has given the film a 15 certificate prior to its June 15 UK release through Fox. Refusal to award a film certificate effectively bars it from UK screens.

Javier Bardem received an Oscar nomination this year for his portrayal of Arenas, a liberal writer who was harassed in his personal life and censored in his work by Cuban authorities. The film is based on memoirs written by Arenas, who died in New York City in 1990.

The BBFC has used the Cinematograph Films (Animals) Act to censor 12 videos over the last year, including original video nasty Cannibal Ferox and Sex Medusa, which features shots of burning snakes. Earlier this year, the BBFC passed Alejandro Gonzales Inarritu's Amores Perros uncut, satisfied that no animals were harmed in the film's visceral dogfight scenes.

Fox was unavailable for comment at press time.